The War Against Cancer Continues Amid the Pandemic! Read the Most Inspiring Stories of 2022
Cancer is one of the most dreaded words in our society.
More dreaded than Covid-19. If there were truly effective vaccines against cancers available today, world health authorities and governments would not have a hard time convincing people to get vaccinated as in the case of Covid vaccines.
Everyone would be interested, everyone would be jumping in. Everyone wants to be free of the fear that this killer has been implanted in us like some sort of sword of Damocles. We enjoy life, but we don’t know when and who will be struck down next by this most dreaded group of diseases.
Responsible for nearly one in every six deaths, cancer is one of the worst plagues in our world. The World Health Organization presents the most common cancers in terms of new cases in 2020:
- Breast: 2.26 million cases
- Lung: 2.21 million cases
- Colon and rectum: 1.93 million cases
- Prostate: 1.41 million cases
- Skin (non-melanoma): 1.20 million cases
- Stomach: 1.09 million cases
But let’s not lose heart. Even amid the coronavirus pandemic, the world’s battle against cancer continues, and here are the most remarkable developments of 2022 that give power to our hope:
- From the National Cancer Institute: Applicaton of mRNA technology used in COVID-19 vaccine in developing cancer vaccines. According to biomedical scientist Karine Breckpot who studies mRNA vaccines at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium, “Unfortunately, it took a pandemic for there to be broad acceptance of mRNA vaccines among the scientific community. But the global use of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines has demonstrated the safety of this approach and will open doors for cancer vaccines.” Scientists have been trying to use mRNA technology in the development of cancer vaccines for decades. But they faced so many challenges, not just in the attitude of many of their colleagues, but, in cases of cancer, cells that don’t look similar, which makes it difficult for a vaccine to target them. However, with today’s advanced knowledge in mRNA technology, scientists are hopeful that they can also produce cancer vaccines.
- From Science News: CAR T-cell therapy helps people to be cancer-free for 10 years. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2017, CAR T-cell immunotherapy has become one of the most hopeful treatments for various types of cancer. A patient’s immune cells are obtained and genetically engineered to be more efficient in recognizing and fighting cancer. Afterward, these engineered cells are infused back into the patient’s body. This has been proven a success in the case of two patients who underwent CAR T-cell therapy ten years before, and they have remained in remission. Last September, five patients with the autoimmune disease lupus were treated with the same therapy, and, based on the researchers’ report, their immune systems seem to have reset, and their symptoms are gone.
- From Quanta Magazine: Discovery of how cells move is helping scientists in improving cancer therapies. Cells are capable of “self-generated gradients,” a discovery that astonished scientists who had previously thought that cells move only through simple gradients. Now, they can use the knowledge in manipulating cancerous cells to gather in areas where they are vulnerable and destroy them with the right treatment.
- From STAT News: Diversification of the pool of participants in clinical trials regarding breast cancer. “The great rationale for the WISDOM trial is to say, can we think about something else that tells us about the risk for you as an individual,” Laura Esserman, a breast cancer surgeon at the University of California in San Francisco who launched WISDOM, told STAT News. Yes, scientists are now recognizing the need to diversify clinical trial participants out of the discovery that gender, race, and ethnicity play a role in a person’s risk of developing illnesses and how the body responds to treatment. In conventional trials, participants have been mostly white and male. There’s an urgent need for change.
- From The New York Times: Bacteria and fungi in our microbiomes have a connection with cancer. In 2020, a number of research groups observed that tumors are not sterile. Instead, a vast assemblage of bacteria, fungi, viruses, bacteriophages, and protozoans can be found in a tumor. This assemblage of microbes on tumors is also often distinct to the type cancer. This knowledge may help scientists to use the microbiome in cancer detection and treatment.
- From The Scientist: Genomics tools are being used for more effective diagnoses and treatment of dog cancers. Databases are now being built in order to identify genetic variations in dog populations. Genomic data have made diagnostic tools more efficient in the identification of more than 40 types of canine cancers, and these are invaluable in formulating therapies.
- From The Atlantic: COVID-19 vaccine exacerbated his cancer, but this world-famous immunologist still advocates that people should get vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2. Michel Goldman was diagnosed with lymphoma before getting his COVID-19 booster in September 2021. He thought that since chemotherapy would weaken his immune system, he should get protection from Covid-19 as early as possible. However, just a few weeks after his booster shot, it was found that his cancer has swiftly spread. Goldman and his brother, who’s a nuclear medicine specialist, began to suspect that the mRNA vaccine booster shot was behind the rapid progression of his disease. Goldman started an in-depth study on the matter and published his findings in 2021. But despite what happened to him, Goldman still advises people to get vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19. Nevertheless, Goldman is encouraging pharmacovigilance for better protection of humankind. “We need to make sure that some pharmacovigilance programs are powered to detect very, very rare side effects,” Goldman told the Atlantic. He believes that there should be transparency in vaccine discussions.