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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: New Treatments and Breakthroughs

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Breast cancer is probably one of the most widely detested diseases in the United States. A quarter of a million people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the end of 2017, and approximately 41,000 of them will die. These statistics show just how many people are impacted by breast cancer and know the pain that comes with this disease. As breast cancer not only kills, but causes those diagnosed to endure agony as they fight for their life. Breast cancer takes everything from a person, as they endure both grueling chemical treatments and physical changes, with their family feeling helpless all the while. That is why today little pink ribbons can be found close to everywhere in America. October is recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month to show solidarity for those who suffer and those who work to help them. Doctors, scientists, family, friends, and ordinary people have worked incessantly to fight this disease, and this Breast Cancer Awareness month, a spotlight will be shown on all the good that has come from their efforts and the hopeful future for those diagnosed.

Cancer is a type of disease caused by the uninhibited growth of cells and can be found in several different regions of the body, from the lungs to patches of skin. Breast cancer is localized in a person’s upper chest and can occur in both men and women but is more common in the latter. Rapidly multiplying cells usually form a tumor, a cluster of cells that can be life-threatening if capable of invading nearby tissues or spreading to other parts of the body in a process called metastasizing. A life-threatening tumor is labeled ‘malignant,’ and is usually able to be detected and treated quickly by doctors. That does not mean patients are in the clear, however. They must first undergo surgery to remove the tumor. Then they must endure chemotherapy, a treatment that bombards the area where a malignant tumor is found with radiation to kill the cancerous cells. Unfortunately, this process also attacks healthy cells and leads to all sorts of negative side effects, such as hair loss, pneumonia, and other illnesses, which are compounded as multiple rounds of chemotherapy are undertaken to kill the cancer. Even worse, once a tumor has been nullified, breast cancer can re-emerge years later, either in the previous region of cancer or in another part of the body, again requiring more harmful treatment.

Luckily, scientists have been researching possible alternate solutions to chemotherapy that can both kill cancer cells and not be harmful to other cells and tissue. Several potentially viable options have emerged in 2017 that can be turned into treatments in the future, the first of which being a process called “molecular targeted therapy.” Molecular targeted therapy involves identifying the particular molecular composition of types of cancer and engineering new drugs to specifically target only those tumors and no other nearby cells. A model drug known as Gilvec is the first in this new field, being used against a rare form of leukemia known as CML (chronic myeloid leukemia) and showing promise for this form of treatment. Another option lies in a South American plant called Ambrosia arborescens and its synthetic analogue ambrosin. Both of these new drugs have proven to be effective at inhibiting the growth and spread of breast cancer stem cells in controlled lab settings. This could be a huge step forward for breast cancer treatment, as breast cancer stem cells are the leaders in the creation of cancerous tumors and have developed a resistance to current chemotherapy treatments used to stop breast cancer.

While breast cancer’s awful reach has touch many today, perhaps in the near future this disease can be even further reduced by the listed and potential future developments in treatment. That is not the only comfort however. The true consolation lies in the fact that these changes and improvements are being initiated by those who chose to stand up to breast cancer and give others a fighting chance, a message that is brought to life with every Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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The student news site of Benet Academy
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: New Treatments and Breakthroughs