Cancer treatments. Part 2
Radiation therapy uses ionizing radiation, which, like chemotherapy drugs, destroys rapidly dividing cells. It can be used both to destroy the tumor and to relieve pain and other symptoms.
There are two types of radiation therapy:
With external radiation, the device is located at a distance from the patient and sends a beam of rays to the area of the body where the tumor is located.
With internal irradiation, a radiation source is introduced into the patient’s body. If the radiation source is a solid object (capsule or tape), this type of treatment is called brachytherapy. The source of radiation can also be a liquid that is injected intravenously. It spreads throughout the body and destroys cancer cells in various organs. This technique is used, in particular, for thyroid cancer.
Radiation therapy is often combined with surgical treatment:
It helps to shrink the tumor before surgery.
During the operation, the surgeon has the opportunity to irradiate the tumor directly, so that the rays do not pass through the skin.
After surgery, radiation therapy helps kill any remaining cancer cells.
The growth of malignant tumors of the prostate and breast is highly dependent on hormonal effects. If cancer cells have receptors for male or female sex hormones, your doctor will prescribe hormone therapy. The drugs that are used in this case can fight the tumor in two ways:
Suppress the production of the “guilty” hormone.
“Interfere” with hormones to exert their effects by binding to receptors on the surface of cancer cells.
Hormone therapy is rarely given alone and is more often than not used in addition to other treatments. Sometimes they resort to surgery, during which the ovaries or testicles are removed so that sex hormones are no longer produced in the body.
Cancer cells are masters of disguise. They skillfully hide from the immune system, so that it does not recognize them and does not attack. Immunotherapy helps fix this. There are different groups of drugs, some of which “mark” cancer cells and help the immune system “see” them, others affect the immune system, activating it and forcing it to attack the tumor.
Modern scientists have learned to edit genes in immune cells. They take T-lymphocytes from the patient, change their genes so that they can attack the tumor, artificially multiply new cells in a test tube and return them to the body.
In recent years, scientists have learned a lot about the molecular mechanisms that help cancer cells grow, multiply, and survive. New knowledge has helped create a new direction in cancer treatment – targeted therapy. A targeted drug always has a specific goal – a specific molecule that is formed in cancer cells and is needed for tumor growth and survival.
Different targeted drugs work in different ways:
- work as drugs for immunotherapy;
- block molecular signals that cause cancer cells to divide uncontrollably
- block molecular signals that are needed for the growth of new vessels and nutrition of the tumor;
- make tumor cells sensitive to chemotherapy drugs, radiation;
- cause natural death of cancer cells – apoptosis;
- work like hormone therapy drugs.
Targeted therapy can be used alone or in combination with other treatments.