Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, and its prevalence is rising due to various factors such as aging population, lifestyle changes, environmental exposures and improved cancer detection and diagnosis. In India, the prevalence of cancer is on the rise, with the National Cancer Registry Programme of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), reporting an increase in cancer mortality from 7,89,202 in 2021 to 8,08,558 in 2022. To combat the increasing fatality rates, innovative technologies are being developed to enhance cancer patient diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and management. With a focus on prevention being preferable to cure, there have been significant advancements in state-of-the-art technology in recent years that not only aid in cancer cure but also cancer prevention.
Dr. Kanury V S Rao, Co-Founder & Chief Scientific Officer (CSO), PredOmix, shares five cutting-edge technologies that are improving cancer prevention and treatment. He also explains how these technologies are implemented and their potential impact on cancer prevention.
Cutting-Edge Technology to Prevent Cancer
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a promising tool for cancer prevention and treatment. AI can analyze large volumes of data from various sources, such as medical records, imaging studies, and genomic profiles, to identify patterns and make predictions that may be difficult for humans to detect. In cancer care, AI can aid in early detection, treatment planning, and monitoring by analyzing imaging studies and predicting treatment responses. For example, AI-powered tools are already being used to analyze mammograms for signs of breast cancer, and they have shown promise in identifying early-stage lung cancer on CT scans. In the future, AI could be used to develop personalized cancer prevention plans based on an individual’s unique risk factors, allowing for more targeted and effective interventions.
2. Liquid Biopsies
Cancer diagnosis has traditionally required invasive procedures such as tissue biopsies. However, liquid biopsies have emerged as a non-invasive alternative for cancer diagnosis. Liquid biopsies involve the analysis of circulating tumor cells or DNA fragments in blood, which can provide information on tumor burden, molecular characteristics, and treatment response. Furthermore, liquid biopsies offer multiple advantages over traditional biopsies, including reduced invasiveness and greater convenience. They can also provide clinicians with real-time information on cancer progression, enabling them to modify treatment strategies to prevent cancer.
CRISPR/Cas9 is a ground-breaking gene editing technology that has the potential to revolutionize cancer prevention. Its ability to accurately alter DNA sequences could help to eliminate cancer-causing mutations and decrease the probability of developing cancer. This personalized approach to prevention could lead to customized strategies like early screening or lifestyle changes. Moreover, the use of CRISPR/Cas9 has the potential to amplify the effectiveness of existing cancer therapies by making cancer cells more responsive to treatment. Although more research is necessary, the potential of CRISPR/Cas9 to prevent and treat cancer is immense.
4. New Imaging Technologies
New imaging technologies, such as PET-CT scans and MRI, are playing a crucial role in cancer prevention by detecting cancer at earlier stages, providing more accurate information about tumor size, location, and spread, allowing for earlier and more effective interventions, reducing the need for invasive procedures, and improving patient outcomes. PET-CT scans can detect cancerous cells as small as a few millimeters, making it possible to identify cancer at an earlier stage than traditional imaging methods. These technologies have transformed cancer diagnosis and treatment, enabling healthcare providers to develop personalized treatment plans based on a patient’s unique characteristics and improving our ability to monitor the effectiveness of cancer therapies.
Metabolomics is an emerging technology that is being applied in cancer detection. It is the study of the small molecules, or metabolites, that are produced by cells and tissues as they carry out their functions. By analyzing metabolites in blood, urine, or other bodily fluids, researchers can gain insights into the metabolic processes that are involved in cancer development and identify biomarkers that can be used for early detection. One example of the potential of metabolomics in cancer prevention is in the detection of early-stage cancer. Currently, there are no effective screening tests for most cancers, which are often diagnosed at a late stage when treatment options are limited. However, researchers have found that certain metabolites have altered patterns in the blood of individuals with early-stage cancer, suggesting that metabolomics could be used to develop a screening test for this deadly disease.
New-Age Technology: Towards Healthy Future
Dr. Rao concludes: It is not an overstatement to state that cutting-edge technology can potentially transform cancer prevention. On the one hand, AI is assisting in identifying individuals who are at high risk of acquiring cancer. Alternatively, CRISPR can accurately remove, insert, or modify particular sections of DNA inside cells to reduce the cancer risk. Furthermore, liquid biopsies and metabolomics can provide non-invasive cancer diagnostics. While these technologies are still in their early stages, the future in cancer prevention looks promising as we progress with more effective and accessible treatments.