The growing trend is to treat cancers with new anti-cancer drugs that allow patients to do without chemo.
For most cancers, especially solid tumors, chemotherapy is a go-to treatment. Unfortunately, chemotherapy is toxic and comes with serious side effects.
Scientists are now actively developing new ways of treating cancer that don’t involve chemotherapy.
Scientists are also making great head-way in identifying cancers that do not need chemotherapy or will not respond to it.
A new study found that some people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia fared much better on an anticancer drug called ibrutinib compared with those who were given standards chemotherapy. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is the most common kind of leukemia. The cancers progressed slower in patients who were given ibrutinib and they had a much better response to the drug, compared to patients who received chemotherapy.
Ibrutinib patients are doing much better in every aspect in terms of their response rates. After 2 years, 98% of patients taking ibrutinb were still alive, compared to 85% of those who were treated with chemotherapy.
Other studies have analyzed whether chemotherapy can be skipped. However, most of those have focused on chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients that haven’t responded to standard chemotherapy. This new study tested ibrutinib in patients as a first-line treatment.
Ibrutinib has been approved to treat a variety of cancers, but only in patients who have failed to respond to other therapies.
Ibrutinib hones in on tumor cells specifically. Conversely, chemotherapy kills both healthy and cancerous cells. This target method is becoming more common in treating many types of cancer.
Unfortunately, it could prove to be extremely expensive. A recent paper analyzed the hypothetical 10-year cot of ibrutinib as a first-line therapy compared with the current standard chemotherapy drugs. It found that for patients newly diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia while ibrutinib is a major treatment advance, it will dramatically increase individual out-of-pocket and societal costs of caring for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
While targeted drugs may cost more than standard chemotherapy, they often have fewer side effects and help patients to live more normal lives.