Defeating Cancer

The BBC’s science programme “Horizon” this week showed the ground breaking UK work by the Institute of Cancer Research and Royal Marsden Hospital in the latest treatments of cancer. A truly inspirational programme that showed where funds raised by the Dallaglio Flintoff 2012 Cycle Slam will be used.

You can see the programme on the BBC iPlayer.

As well as following three patients who were part of clinical trials for new treatments at the London hospital, the programme also explored the complex science behind the latest cancer treatments. This showed the three parallel advances that are being made by the scientists and doctors:

  • a system providing advanced 3-D radiotherapy treatments;
  • a surgical robot enabling pinpoint accurate internal surgery;
  • and molecular DNA advances that mean existing cancers can be treated by drugs.

Each of these initiatives addresses a different perspective of tackling cancer. Once the disease is detected, then radiotherapy is used to kill the cancerous cells. The problem is that X-rays cannot distinguish between good cells and the cancerous bad cells, meaning that accurate targeting is essential. This latest machine literally operates in 3-D, zapping the cancerous cells from 100 different angles.

Next when surgery is necessary, the key requirement is pinpoint accuracy in surgical process. The device used was a throwback to research work first initiated by NASA, where they wanted to build a robot in a space station that could be controlled by a surgeon on the ground! This latest version allowed a surgeon to remove a cancerous prostrate with such accuracy that the patient could leave hospital just 24 hours later.

The third scenario tackles the situation where the disease has already spread, and the treatment is to restrict the growth of these secondary tumours. We saw how scientists investigated the B-Raf gene, discovered the way it mutated and designed a drug to combat that mutation. In effect a medical detective story searching for a way to crack a unique DNA code.

Like all well made documentaries, the human interest was the fact that ordinary, genuine and likeable people were now able to receive these ground breaking treatments. For me, the message of hope that this provides was summed up by the clinician who has to tell patients their results. He said that, with previous treatments, 8 out of 10 times he had to give the patient the news that the disease was spreading. Now with these new drugs, that would be reversed, and 8 out of 10 times he would be able to give the patient the news that their cancer was being defeated. Patients able to live with the disease, not die from it. Amazing!

Now all this research comes with a price tag. And that is where the Dallaglio Foundation can help. By donating to the Cycle Slam, the work of the ICR and Royal Marsden will be continued, developing new treatments for prostrate cancer.

Please donate now if you can. Together we can defeat cancer.

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