For more than 50 years, the standard regimen for most cancer treatments have been chemotherapy. In recent years, a range of personalized, less toxic modalities have been slowly but steadily replacing chemotherapy as a cancer treatment modality.
Decades of painstaking research have given scientists a far better understanding of chronic cancers and, more broadly, the mechanisms and mutations of all types of cancer. These studies have opened new doors that are leading to better, safer and specifically targeted medicines, in place of chemotherapy.
New treatments include targeted therapies for people with melanoma who have a mutated BRAF gene; for breast cancer patients who have the HER2 gene mutation, or for helping patients to inhibit the growth of lung and colorectal cancers. Other new classes of drugs that offer options to chemotherapy include immunotherapies, artificial proteins, gene therapies, T-cell therapies, cancer vaccines, and natural killer cell treatments. Some of these treatments have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), while others are in clinical trials or in drug company pipelines.
Chemotherapy often brings with it a great physical and emotional cost to the patient in terms of quality of life. The side effects of chemo — during and even sometimes after treatment — can be difficult to endure, despite the fact that drugs have been developed to reduce nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and hair loss. Chemo can also cause organ damage and even secondary cancers that appear later.
Despite the costs and side-effects from chemotherapy, most oncologist, scientists, and cancer industry observers agree that while chemo is being replaced in many cancer treatments, there are several cancers where it is the only viable alternative. The good news is that though no medical expert would suggest the entire removal of chemotherapy option, they all concur that newer, better, and safer treatments for multiple types of cancer are either available, or coming soon.