30 November 2015
In this 21st century, it is common knowledge that breast cancer treatment has made great strides. A diagnosis of breast cancer today is no longer a death sentence, and the treatment is no longer more painful than the disease. Today, women with breast cancer live longer and better than ever before. Many are completely cured. And the future looks even brighter, with individualised, cutting-edge therapies being tested and developed right now.
It is with this advancement that we are optimistic future breast cancer treatments will be a lot smarter about the cells they target. The older and more traditional approaches that we are familiar with such as the standard chemotherapy and radiation tend to attack all rapidly dividing cells throughout the body. That includes healthy cells lining the hair follicles and the intestines, as well as the intended cancer cells. Yes, the approach can work, but it also causes many of traditional chemotherapy’s infamous side effects.
But over the years medical researchers have learned that breast cancers, like people, are not identical. And they have been using this knowledge to develop more effective, less toxic drugs. By discovering precisely how tumours differ from person to person, they have begun creating treatments that seek out and destroy specific types of cancer cells, and only those cancer cells - leaving healthy cells alone.
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This article was first published by the DG of Health on 3 August 2015.