Today, advanced imaging, genomics and other technologies are making it possible to detect different types of cancer at an earlier stage. This is leading to new ways of treating patients and developing more effective treatments. Some of the most exciting innovations are being developed in oncology technology. This field includes laboratory, imaging, and surgical procedures that target various pathways and stages of cancer growth. Oncology is a broad field that encompasses the investigation, prevention, treatment, and cure of cancers. Below are some of the most common uses for oncology technology today:
Lab testing is a critical component of clinical cancer care. The diagnosis is the first step toward treatment, and it is often based on a patient’s symptoms and the types and levels of specific proteins found in tumor cells. For example, tumors rarely have specific proteins that healthy cells do, so a high number of these proteins can show that the tumor is getting bigger. Lab tests can help find problems early, lower the risk of cancer, and establish how a patient will do. For example, some blood tests can detect blood cancers that have not yet caused any symptoms. By being able to sequence DNA, or the blueprint for life, new testing methods have become possible. Scientists can find out a lot about the DNA sequence of a tumor and what proteins it has by using these. By learning more about the tumor, doctors can find possible treatment targets and stop it from returning.
Imaging and screening
Many cancers grow rapidly and can often be detected early on through imaging tests such as CT scans and MRIs. Even though this can help tell the difference between a new growth and an old one, it doesn’t always mean that treatment is needed. Instead, these tests are primarily used to determine the extent of the disease and whether cancer treatment is needed. CT scans and MRIs provide detailed images of the interior parts of the body. Images can help to diagnose cancers, such as lung, breast, and brain cancers, that are in specific areas of the body. These pictures can also help plan treatments, like reconstructive surgery for brain tumors that are cancerous or targeted radiation therapy for lung cancers.
Changes in how cancer is treated are leading to new ways to reduce side effects and improve results. One example is immunotherapy, which harnesses the immune system to fight malignancy. Immune system cells can attack and destroy many types of cancer; however, cancer cells also produce certain proteins that block the activity of the immune system. New drugs are being developed to help immune system cells fight cancer. Another example is precision medicine. New technologies, including genomics and proteomics, are making it possible to determine what drugs and other therapies are most effective for particular patients based on their DNA and proteins. This can help reduce side effects like nausea and tiredness while making the treatment more effective.
Advanced robotics and automation
By automating some oncology tasks, they can be done faster and more accurately, and the chance of a mistake made by a person can be reduced. Some areas where automation is used to improve efficiency and accuracy include sample preparation, imaging, data analysis, and patient scheduling. For example, robots have been used to help reduce the chance of mistakes when preparing samples, which is important for making sure tests are accurate. Automation has also made it possible to speed up some processes, like imaging exams and chemistry tests, so that patients don’t have to wait as long for their results. Robotics can also help automate certain procedures, like the delivery of chemotherapy drugs to patients. Some oncologists and drug companies are also looking into how automation can improve robotic surgery.
Using advanced technologies in oncology is bringing us closer to curing cancer. New ways to test in the lab can help find cancer earlier and identify how a patient will do. New immunotherapy drugs can help fight cancer, while new robotic surgery techniques can help to remove cancerous tumors.
Dr. Ronald Bissell is a retired surgeon, author of 6 books on Personal and Spiritual Growth, writer of numerous articles and facilitator of workshops. He has been giving talks to help people with life-threatening diseases for the past 10 years. After three years of chemotherapy he recently had a bone marrow transplant to treat Multiple Myeloma. His work now involves helping others with life-threatening diseases as well as teaching people how to live their best lives without fear or anxiety.