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INDIANAPOLIS–Several advances in cancer treatment were made in 2018. But, the “cure” that was announced by Israeli doctors should be taken with a grain of salt, said a cancer researcher who literally wrote the book on cancer treatment advances for 2018.

“What they’ve identified so far is in the context of mice and animal models. I think it’s gonna take a couple of steps of validation before it rises to the level of human data,” said Dr. Sumanta K. Pal, author of Clinical Cancer Advances 2019, an annual report.

But, advances in other kinds of therapies were major, he said. That includes immune therapy.

“Now in the context of one disease that we fight for instance, anaplastic thyroid cancer, you’ve got specific mutations in the tumor, you might have tumor shrinkage in about 70 percent of the cases,” said Pal.

He said unlike chemo therapy, which goes after all mutating cells in the body, immune therapy is more targeted.

“We really are able to use your body’s own immune system and harness it against the cancer,” he said. “One of the things we’ve actually moved to, a step beyond that. We can actually take cells out of a patient’s body, retool these immune cells and inject them in. So, they’re like homing missiles. They can actually go after and attack cancer.”


Some of the biggest advances have been in the fight against rare cancers.

In Indiana, some of the most common forms of cancer are lung, breast, and colon cancer, and leukemia. Indiana is ninth in the county in cancer-related deaths.

But, the state is also helping to fight cancer.

“It’s really taken a concerted effort. Cancer centers from around the country, but you can think of the cancer centers in Indiana contributing to this, like IU,” said Pal.

PHOTO: Thinkstock/ katarzyna bialasiewicz