Breakthroughs and advances in cancer care are happening at a rapid pace. At the Leonard Cancer Institute, we combine the power of personalized medicine at the molecular level with leading-edge research to deliver state-of-the-art treatments to our patients.
Our oncologists and other cancer treatment specialists use the information on a patient’s genetic makeup, in addition to the molecular composition of tumors, to construct a personalized treatment plan. This plan may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, or other targeted therapy, either alone or in combination, to aggressively attack and kill cancer cells.
Advancements in Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy continues to evolve in terms of effectiveness while reducing the side effects we associate with it. These include temporary hair loss, fatigue, nausea, pain, increased risk of infection, and depression. Controlling and reducing chemotherapy’s side effects is an essential goal for our entire medical team.
The good news is that new agents, including novel drug combinations, are often more effective in shrinking tumors and relieving associated symptoms than their predecessors.
In locally advanced cancers, chemotherapy can be given before surgery (neoadjuvant) to shrink the tumor and give patients a higher chance for a successful complete surgical removal later. This combination often results in a better opportunity for full remission.
Harnessing the Power of the Immune System
The immune system is the “police force” that protects our body from disease and illness. However, cancer can sometimes turn off the immune system, allowing cancer to grow unchecked. Immunotherapy, such as a class of drugs called checkpoint inhibitors, turns the immune system back “on” so that cancer-fighting T-cells can recognize and mount a direct attack on the tumor. There are also cancer vaccines being investigated which stimulate the immune system to target and destroy a specific type of cancer.
Immunotherapy, alone or in combination with other treatments, has been proven useful in fighting multiple different types of cancer. There are now tests available that help identify subgroups of patients who achieve the most benefit from immunotherapy.
Targeting Tumors with Radiation
A significant number of patients with cancer undergo some form of radiation therapy. Radiation uses focused, high-energy photon beams to destroy cancer cells and can be used as a single modality or in combination with other treatments such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy to maximize the chances for effective cancer control.
3D conformal radiation utilizes special planning CT scans, along with complex computer modeling, to precisely aim multiple radiation beams at the tumor and block out other adjacent areas of the body which do not require radiation. This targeting maximizes the dose of radiation the tumor receives while significantly reducing side effects.
Radiation therapy also includes brachytherapy, a process that surgically implants tiny capsules containing radioactive iodine directly at the tumor site through a hollow needle or catheter. The radiation emitted from these capsules travels only a very short distance, so the tumor receives almost all the radiation delivered.
Minimally Invasive, Robotic-Assisted, and Other Surgeries
For many patients with cancer, surgery may be the primary, and sometimes the only part of their treatment. Following surgery, depending on the risk of future relapse, physicians may recommend preventative (adjuvant) chemotherapy, radiation, or immunotherapy to improve the chances for long-term cancer control or full remission.
Minimally invasive or robotic surgery involves making several small, keyhole incisions guide the operation. In robotic surgery, the surgeon controls one or more robotic arms (similar to a video game console) to precisely remove cancerous tumors with less associated blood loss, post-operative pain, and recovery time compared with conventional surgery.
Clinical Trials in Cancer Care
The Leonard Cancer Institute partners with academic centers of excellence and private industries to offer our patients access to clinical trials. In these trials, our patients may not only find a more effective treatment for their cancer, but they can also help pioneer the standard of care for future cancer patients.
To learn about the Leonard Cancer Institute and our comprehensive network of cancer hospitals across Southern California, visit us here.