Traditional cancer treatment methods not ‘ideal,’ Turkish medics say
ISTANBULTraditional cancer treatment methods like chemotherapy and radiotherapy are not ideal anymore, a Turkish medical oncology specialist has said ahead of World Cancer Day on Feb. 4, underscoring that new ways are being developed to prevent the growth of cancer cells by exploring the “cancer maps” in human genes.
“Older treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy are not ideal or ‘smart’ any more, as these methods also kill healthy cells,” Istanbul-based medical oncology and internal medicine Prof. Canfeza Sezgin told the state-run Anadolu Agency in an interview, adding “new ways are being developed to prevent the growth of cancer cells by exploring the human genetic cancer maps.”
Sezgin said “smart medicines” have been used in the last four-to-five years in Turkey and could be used alone or with chemotherapy.
“We are doing genetic tests on patients to determine their cancer’s characteristics and looking at whether it is suitable for smart medicines. If it is, their life expectancy [can be] doubled,” Sezgin said.
“This has led to improved molecular drugs - so-called smart medicines. In our country, smart medicines have been used for between four-to-five years,” he added.
According to Sezgin, these smart medicines directly target cancer cells, killing and preventing growth, potentially increasing the average lifetime of patients by about 30-40 percent from initial diagnosis.
According to a 2012 Health Ministry report, every year about 105,000 men and 71,000 women are diagnosed with various cancers in Turkey.
Although cancer continues to claim many lives and devastate families across the country, new treatment methods and medicines are being found to send cancers into remission, or at least extend the lifespans of cancer sufferers.
Men experience lung and prostate cancer as the leading causes of death from the disease. Among women, breast cancer is the most common fatal cancer, according to the latest data from the Health Ministry.
The struggle against this illness is, for many people, a battle to maintain hope in the fact of a chilling diagnosis.
According to the Health Ministry, one male cancer patient out of five suffers from lung cancer. Overall, Turkey largely fits in with the global experience of cancer.
As in Turkey, the most commonly diagnosed cancers worldwide were those of the lung (1.8 million, 13 percent of total diagnoses), breast (1.7 million, 11.9 percent) and colorectal (1.4 million, 9.7 percent), according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) online database, GLOBOCAN 2012.
GLOBOCAN 2012 revealed that the most common causes of cancer death were those of the lung (1.6 million, 19.4 percent of the total), liver (0.8 million, 9.1 percent) and stomach (0.7 million, 8.8 percent).
Prostate cancer is also common in Turkey.
“A prostate cancer patient can be treated with sound waves without any pain and bleeding. They can then return to their normal life,” Turkish urology doctor Hüseyin Lüleci said, adding that people could undergo a high-frequency sound waves procedure which targets tumors directly.
Lüleci said patients were often unaware of the disease because prostate cancer has relatively few symptoms but a minute-long examination could detect the illness easily.
“People should have a check-up between 45-50 years of age if there is prostate cancer in their families,” he added.
According to Health Ministry statistics, a total of 17,630 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and one out of four female cancer patients suffer from the disease in Turkey.
According to the American Cancer Society’s website, new treatments which could catch breast cancer early are being studied and tested by scientists.
“Some drugs help to destroy tumors in 50-60 percent of patients who have locally advanced breast cancer,” Breast Health Society Founder doctor Vahit Özmen said.
Molecular breast imaging – also known as scintimammography – sees a radioactive tracer injected into a vein.
This then attaches itself to breast cancer cells and can be detected with a special camera. However, this method is still being studied to see if it will be useful in locating breast cancers.
Under the description “targeted therapies,” one group of drugs also takes advantage of gene changes in cells which can cause cancer.
Some drugs currently in use target HER2, a gene which can play a role in the development of breast cancer.
About the causes of the disease, Ozmen said hormones seem to play a major role in breast cancer. A bad diet - especially eating red meat, animal fat and drinking alcohol - is also a risk factor in developing the illness, he added.
Projections based on the GLOBOCAN 2012 estimates a substantive increase to 19.3 million new cancer cases per year by 2025, due to an increased global population which is living longer on average.
More than half of all cancers (56.8%) and cancer deaths (64.9%) in 2012 occurred in less-developed regions of the world, and these proportions could increase further by 2025, GLOBOCAN 2012 data suggested.