The medical sector is always developing and improving, and there are some incredible technology and medicines already being utilised in hospitals, clinics and centres across the world. From the advanced MRI scanners that allow specialists to see scans and maps of our internal structures in increasing detail, allowing for precise diagnosis and a fast turnaround in treatment. To the drugs that make cancer treatments like Immunotherapy possible, providing our immune system the extra defence and knowledge it needs to successfully wage war against cancer cells.
While cancer treatments are currently at an efficient high with the introduction of proton beam therapy and clinics making treatments like proton beam therapy more widely available. There is already more research and development in the pipeline for improved equipment that will make treating cancer more effective than ever before.
The MR-LINAC machine is a combination of the imaging services of an advanced MRI scanner with a built-in Linear Accelerator for delivering radiation into cancerous tumours. The full name is the Magnetic Resonance Linear Accelerator, and it has been designed to precisely locate tumours in the body and tailor the x-rays (photons) to the shape of the tumour in real-time, accommodating small natural movements and ensuring highly accurate dose delivery.
By continually monitoring the shape and location of the tumour, doses of radiation can be safely delivered into the cancer cells while avoiding as much healthy tissue in the body as possible. Not only does this reduce the severity of side effects but it reduces the likelihood of cancerous cells returning. While the machine currently exists in several centres, trials are still being performed to confirm the accuracy of treatment and verify the potential for delivering higher doses and reduce the length of the overall treatment plan.
MR-Guided Proton Beam Therapy
Proton beam therapy is a relatively new treatment available in several private UK cancer clinics and in a handful of NHS hospitals. It is a highly accurate targeted cancer treatment that accurately ‘paints’ proton beams onto cancerous tumours to interrupt the cell processes, prevent growth and duplication and eventually lead to the death of the cell. It is considered an excellent treatment for treating cancers in sensitive locations such as the brain, head and neck due to highly accurate doses that prevent surrounding healthy cells from receiving any radiation.
Currently, research is being carried out on the potential for MR-Guided Proton Beam Therapy. Similar to MR-LINAC – Magnetic Resonance Linear Accelerator – MR-Guided Proton Beam Therapy utilises the accurate dose delivery of a proton beam therapy machine combined with real-time MR scanning. Proton beam therapy doses are usually much higher in strength than those delivered via conventional radiotherapy, so tumours must be precisely located to prevent surrounding healthy cells receiving any dose of radiation.
Tailored Cancer Vaccines
Every cancer diagnosis is unique, and tumours originate from our own healthy cells that have undergone a genetic mutation. Scientists have been investigating how these mutations that occur can be used to create tailored cancer vaccines specific to each patient. Using cross-comparison of healthy cells and mutated cancer cells, there is a potential to identify and select the mutations that could invoke a strong reaction from our immune system, helping us to fight back against cancer naturally. Vaccines that are created contain a particular molecule known as Messenger RNA which includes a ‘message’ that instructs the body to make a specific protein that can fight back against cancer cells.
As technologies evolve and develop, the future of medicine and medical technologies looks brighter than ever before, helping to cure more awful diseases and potentially eradicate others. Do your bit to support a local or national cancer charity or services for cancer care in the UK and beyond and help fund the way to a cancer-free society.