Cancer cells are smart. They adapt to defend against the drugs we use to treat them, and tumors can develop resistance to certain drugs over time. This can vary from patient to patient. Our research at Roswell Park is offering new ways to get around these issues.
For example, a patient who is diagnosed with lung cancer may receive one drug to combat his or her cancer. The cancer cells are reduced or eliminated and the patient has successful treatment. But if the cancer returns, we can now biopsy the new cancer cells. What we have found is that, even though the disease evolves to ward off medications, there are often other drugs that can help control these mutations.
The hope that this new research offers is large in scope. By understanding the evolution of cancer cells, we can administer multi-tiered treatments at the outset of the disease that might better control potential cell mutations that previously counteracted initial treatments.
Our progress in this field offers a long-term, non-invasive plan to help patients’ regain their lives for many, many years. Our hope is to help control cancer so that our patients whose initial treatments do not work long-term may live out their natural lives in a way similar to managing diabetes, or other controllable diseases—with few side effects. This is the future of cancer treatment we are moving toward, and we are excited about the new possibilities it offers.