New-age technologies as a game changer in cancer testing

Modern technologies have a high potential for success in cancer research, writes Dr. Kanury V S Rao

About Author: Dr Kanury V S Rao is the Co-Founder & Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) of PredOmix. Dr Kanury has served as Senior Scientist and Head, Immunology Group of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) for over 25 years before establishing the Drug Discovery Research Centre at THSTI between 2015 to 2017. He has made significant contributions in diverse areas that include immunology, cell, and molecular biology, infectious disease biology, systems biology, and drug discovery. He is the recipient of prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award and Ranbaxy Research Award.

Over the last few decades, the healthcare industry has seen tremendous growth and evolution. In the scenario, digitalization took centre stage.  As digital solutions are used to provide healthcare services with increased capacity and efficiency, as well as help improve clinical outcomes for patients. While new-age technologies have emerged as game changers in the healthcare industry over time, specific technical trends have gained popularity, particularly in cancer diagnostics. As a result, the healthcare industry and various pharmaceutical companies have evolved in the field of health technology around the world, making significant progress in discovering increasingly complicated facts about how to test for cancer.

The progress of early cancer detection is a complex and multifaceted endeavour at the forefront”

With the transforming landscape, it is well established that early cancer diagnosis results in better outcomes, patient experiences, less treatment morbidity, and a greater quality of life than later cancer diagnoses. The progress of early cancer detection is a complex and multifaceted endeavour at the forefront. However, it has become essential to detect cancer at the earliest and attends early cancer screening, which aims to detect cancer before symptoms appear (for instance, mammography for breast cancer), and rapidly seek primary care with likely cancer symptoms. However, rapid technology innovation has aided in addressing critical constraints in the oncology sector. Cancer tested at an early stage with new-age technology is more likely to be treated successfully when it isn’t too large and hasn’t spread.
New-age technologies as a game changer
Artificial Intelligence
The introduction of AI has ushered in the next generation of automation in the sector. Artificial intelligence is all about enabling machines to think, act, and develop. This technology is particularly valuable in scientific investigations, and can easily examine large amounts of data. The AI-enabled clinical decision supports the efficacy of health practitioners. AI is also used to accelerate the development of digital twins for cancer patients. Others utilise it to personalise patient radiation doses by analysing imaging data and electronic health records. AI can swiftly analyse population-based cancer data to assess the likelihood of various cancers. And these are only the tip of the iceberg regarding how AI may truly help test cancer.
Robotic Surgery
Robotic surgery is a type of operation in which surgical tools are guided by a computer system, allowing surgeons to perform complex tasks in the least invasive way possible, with a faster recovery rate and little or no risk of infection. Many companies around the world are attempting to develop a robot that will revolutionise surgery in the future, with miniature sensors installed inside the lightweight structure of the robot, providing insights by being further inside the patient’s body. Procedures that previously required a large incision from the navel to the pubic bone can now be performed on patients with prostate cancer who need their prostate gland removed using robotic arms that enter the body through a tiny incision. The surgeon can use a specialised interface to control the arms while viewing a real-time magnified image of the surgery site. Although robotic surgery reduces blood loss and discomfort, patients can leave the hospital the day after surgery for a prostatectomy. While the robotic arms may appear to be an out-of-the-box technique, their delicate, precise movements could mean the difference between eliminating all cancerous tissues and potentially damaging healthy ones.
Since scientists discovered that mutations in DNA cause cancer, they have been looking for a simple way to fix those abnormalities. CRISPR has been developed to perform the best role in this case. It is a method of locating a specific piece of DNA inside cells as well as accomplishing other things, such as turning genes on or off without affecting the sequence. CRISPR is a novel technique that can be used to modify genes, and as such, it has the potential to revolutionise the world. Following that, gene editing to modify that bit of DNA is the next stage in this technology. CRISPR trials in the body are also getting underway. Furthermore, one thing is clear, CRISPR technology is a game changer that has the potential to advance cancer research as well as other fields significantly.
Clinical trials and cancer care delivery were critical during and after the pandemic. Many healthcare institutions are participating in research initiatives that have effectively developed or embraced telehealth approaches in order to give cancer patients treatment and care remotely. Hospitals and clinics around the country use telehealth for remote health monitoring, video visits, and even in-home chemotherapy to boost safety and convenience for both patients and clinicians. Furthermore, telehealth makes cancer therapy and clinical trials more accessible to a broader spectrum of patient groups across a more significant geographic region. People have used telehealth treatments outside of cancer treatment, accounting for about one-third of all medical sessions held online.
Liquid Biopsies
Liquid biopsies, which are becoming more popular, provide a minimally invasive, economical, and repeatable method for disease profiling at the genomic, proteomic, or metabolomic levels. Over the past few years, techniques for isolating and analysing liquid biopsies have developed quickly, giving rise to new information about tumour characteristics like tumour progression, tumour staging, heterogeneity, gene mutations, clonal evolution, etc. Emerging liquid biopsy technologies that can detect potential metabolic biomarkers linked to diseases are being used more frequently in the fields of early diagnosis, determining the effectiveness of treatment, and creating novel anti-cancer therapies. Liquid biopsies taken from cancer patients have created new opportunities for early detection, ongoing monitoring, precision medicine-based treatment, and the identification of markers for drug resistance. Although liquid biopsy technology is still developing, its non-invasive nature promises to usher in new eras in clinical practice oncology.
CAR-T cells
Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR-T) cell therapy is a form of immunotherapy which has generated substantial excitement among oncologists. This therapy modifies a person’s own immune system to make it more effective at finding and destroying cancer cells. In this process, the T-cells are isolated from the patients and engineered in the lab to fight cancer cells. These modified T-cells, now called CAR-T cells are put back into the patient’s bloodstream where they continue to multiply and fight cancer. Several types of immunotherapy are either approved for use or are under study in clinical trials to determine their effectiveness in treating various types of cancer. Although criticized for their higher costs, CAR-T cells therapies have already entered the mainstream of cancer treatment and are now widely available. In some countries they have become a standard treatment for patients with aggressive lymphomas. They have become a part of modern medicine.
Towards a Bright Future!
With the ever-changing landscape, healthcare industries across the globe are recognising the significance of new-age technology that has emerged as a game changer for cancer testing. Modern technologies have a high potential for success in cancer research. These technologies’ success is mainly dependent on healthcare practitioners. Knowing the available care alternatives is critical for using them in testing and displaying support for these research and development teams. Most of these new cancer-fighting technologies must establish their worth in clinical trials. Even in the best-case scenario, they will not be ready for several years. However, industries are on pace to achieve a future in which cancer therapy is personalized and the odds of survival are better than ever.

**Views expressed by the author are his own.

*This article was first featured in November 2022 edition of BioVoice e-Magazine.