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Top Five Cancer Trends in 2019

Publication: Austin Medical Times

Medical science and technology are constantly advancing, creating innovations in oncology that provide more and better options for cancer patients. Trends shaping cancer treatment and prevention in 2019 blend a focus on the opportunities that lie in deeper understanding of what is unique to each patient with insights gleaned from probing what is common to many.

1.   Immune Systems Go

Chemotherapy remains a primary treatment for cancer; however, the use of immune-based therapies continues to grow. Oncologists increasingly will recommend immunotherapy, which uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer, as a treatment option for some patients. Immunotherapy is a personalized treatment option that can be more effective and less toxic than chemotherapy. This is a particularly promising development for higher risk patients. A patient’s best opportunity to be treated with this promising new therapy may be on a clinical trial. At Texas Oncology in Austin, 130 patients are enrolled in clinical trials every year. 

2.   Big Data = Big Picture of Cancer

This year, we’ll continue to see advancements in the use of big data to help inform treatment plans and analyze patient outcomes. Advancements in technology have made it possible for providers like Texas Oncology – which treats tens of thousands of patients each year – to discover powerful ways to provide the most optimal care. For example, patient tracking data required in the Oncology Care Model, a novel program through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, is giving us the clearest ‘big picture’ look we’ve ever had about our patients’ treatment and outcomes. Patient data help healthcare providers better understand genetic risk, new approaches to therapeutics, and trends in healthy living post-treatment. In turn, we can improve patient outcomes.

3. Putting Patient Priorities First

Managing a cancer diagnosis requires an ongoing dialogue with medical teams and caregivers. Patients are becoming more empowered to put their values and priorities forward in treatment decisions – enabled by the evolving approach physicians take in communicating with patients. For example, more providers are embracing telemedicine which adds convenience and provides more immediate and actionable access to care. This helps break silos between patients and providers, allowing cancer patients to be more involved in their treatment decisions.

4.   On the Lookout for Cancer

Early detection has long been an emphasis when it comes to health. We will continue to see providers promote screenings and early detection, as well advancement in screening solutions like liquid biopsies. A recent American Cancer Society study found that the cancer death rate dropped by 27 percent in the last 25 years, primarily because of advancements in early detection and treatment, and decreases in smoking. We are engaging primary care physicians on early detection and genetic testing to provide patients with a better understanding of cancer risk and the opportunity to treat cancer sooner, with greater success.  

5.   It’s in Your Blood

In 2019, we expect to hear more about advancements in a variety of blood tests as a new approach to detect and diagnosing cancer. Though still in the trial/study phase, recently developed blood tests are being used to detect cancer cells in the bloodstream. As for using blood testing as a wide-spread method of testing for cancer, it’s still very early, but developments in this area hold great promise.

As we look to the future, new developments in cancer detection and treatment are exciting. These trends represent advancements that will continue to pave the way forward, leading to better outcomes and quality of life for patients during and after treatment, and ultimately delivering greater hope to everyone impacted by cancer.

James Uyeki, M.D., is a medical oncologist at Texas Oncology–South Austin, 4101 James Casey Street, Suite 100, in Austin, Texas. For more information, visit TexasOncology.com.

This story originally appeared in the February print issue of Austin Medical Times.

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