By Dr. Shyam Shrivastava
Cancer – the umbrella term for a host of diseases characterised by the development of abnormal cells dividing uncontrollably and having the ability to infiltrate and damage normal body tissues, happens to be one of the leading causes of death globally. However, state-of-the-art technology and tech-aided breakthroughs in oncology have now made it possible to detect cancer at a preliminary stage, thereby spinning new hope in the possibility of treating it, to a great extent. In fact, a majority of cancers can be successfully treated when diagnosed at an initial stage and that is considered to be an apt weapon to fight the deadly disease.
Cutting edge technologies are doing miracles in early cancer diagnosis and treatment
Technovations like Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), CRISPR, Telehealth, the Infinium Assay, Cryo-electron Microscopy, Robotic Surgeries, stereotactic radiation and newer chemotherapy molecules and more have brought in a revolutionary change in cancer care and have improved cancer detection and treatment of cancer.
Big Data: Big Data plays a pivotal role in early detection of cancer in the field of diagnostic imaging. It also supports doctors to make clinical decisions and even anticipate the evolution of the tumour itself. Through image digitisation, Big Data systems convert images into data, facilitating precise diagnoses at the wee stage of the cancer. Big Data analysis is a dynamic process and has great potential for future research.
AI and ML: Cancer prediction is the most important job done by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. AI can easily identify existing cancers and also detect people who are at high risk of developing cancer even before it sets in. Thus, with the help of AI, the doctors can monitor their patients meticulously and intervene at appropriate time as required.
Machine Learning aided apps enable individuals to get initial feedback on any kind of cancer related abnormalities through self-diagnosing (suspecting). Following that, one may reach out to an oncologist at an earliest and get their condition detected.
CRISPR: CRISPR is a game changer in cancer management. Its functional genome-screening approaches can reveal gene expression changes, post cancer treatment and also identify genes associated with resistance to targeted drugs. Thus, it could identify new novel biomarkers for precision therapy and offer new insights into cancer development.
Telehealth: Telehealth, also known as telemedicine, reduces the incidence of medical errors as it compensates for reduced medical staff. Thereby, it can considerably improve the prospect of early cancer diagnosis and early recurrence of cancer. Also, it may be used to establish convenient access to cancer trials by facilitating trial eligibility, assessment, consent, participation and more. It is useful in getting follow-up information for patients treated for cancer.
Infinium Assay: This is a tool of genotyping, a technology that reads and compares genes across people. It provides important insights into how genetic variations relate to cancer in the community. Infinium Assay analyses millions of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), the most common type of genetic variation. These SNPs can help map cancer causing genes and provide insight into cancer risk, progression, and development.
DNA Methylation has been in use since long for detecting cancer at a nascent stage. Several technologies like Infinium Assay have been developed to detect these cancer biomarkers for early and quick diagnosis.
Cryo-electron Microscopy: This is a high-end imaging technology that enables us to view, in atomic detail, the binding of a potential small molecule drug to a key protein in cancer cells. This makes cancer detection at an early stage possible and more accurate to a great extent.
Stereotactic Radiation Therapy (SRS/SRT): Also known as stereotactic RadioSurgery (SRS) and stereotactic Body radiation therapy (SBRT), it is a kind of external radiotherapy that uses a special equipment to position the patient and precisely deliver radiation to a tumour. While it is predominantly used to treat brain tumours, studies are being conducted to utilise it for other kinds of cancer like lung and oral.
Robotics: Robotics play a significant role in making cancer detection and surgeries faster and precise, thereby remarkably improving cancer diagnostics.
Radiomics: Technological progress in computational power, machine learning and artificial intelligence has now made it possible to derive automated evaluation of medical images that could generate quantitative diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers. Radiomics refers to the extraction of mineable data from medical imaging. The radiomic based biomarkers are pioneers in cancer treatment as they have the potential to improve personalised treatment, precision medicine and patient selection for clinical trials.
Advancement of technologies have resulted in breakthrough achievements in cancer detection, diagnosis, treatment and care as well as research. Tech-based tools have empowered oncology in a way that cancer is no more a dreadful condition and can be conquered with early detection and timely clinical intervention.
(The author is a Director – Radiation Oncology, HCG ICS Khubchandani Cancer Centre, Mumbai. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)