More than 1.8 million Americans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2020, according to the American Cancer Society. And with an aging U.S. population, that number will only continue to climb over the coming decades. But new and emerging treatments and technologies are providing hope for those handed a diagnosis.
Here are five ways experts predict cancer care will change in the next 10 years.
Cancer treatment will be more targeted
Traditional chemotherapy has long been a standard treatment in cancer care. But it's increasingly taking a back seat to a more precise and personalized approach, called targeted therapy.
Unlike traditional chemotherapy drugs, which can damage both normal and cancerous cells, targeted therapies disrupt only the cancer cells and leave the healthy cells alone. The drugs do this by “targeting” specific characteristics that make cancer cells different from normal cells. Then they prevent those cancer cells from replicating, the American Cancer Society explains.
Some targeted therapy drugs trigger a person's own immune system to kill the cancer cells, for example. Others block chemical signals that tell the cancer cells to grow and divide.
The type of targeted therapy prescribed depends on a person's specific type of cancer and the gene changes that take place in those cells. This level of personalization “makes it more likely that the patients who receive therapy are going to respond to that therapy,” explains William Hahn, M.D., chief scientific officer at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and a professor at Harvard Medical School. “And it spares people from therapies that aren't going to work.”