We asked our Current Oncology Section Editors how they would define the term “life after cancer” and how that theme presents itself in their chosen fields. Below is a response from Dr. Michel L. Tremblay,Director of the Goodman Cancer Research Centre at McGill University:
The rising number of cancer survivors is a great testimony of the advances in clinical treatments. Applications of novel technologies that basic sciences discover and that clinical research moved forward will be significantly added to the oncologist toolbox in the coming years. We can state with great optimism that those will contribute to a rapid augmentation in the number of cancer survivors. Although a crucial clinical follow up plan takes the stage for a life after cancer, much ongoing research into pain management and psychosocial issues are already addressing these essential concerns for survivors.
Yet, it is important to note that more can be gained in expanding technological and molecular research efforts towards survivorships issues. To name a few; understanding the contribution of dormant cancer cells to tumor recurrence, identifying specific genes or cells that could be altered or modified during the initial treatments, and the development of novel biomarkers associated with personalized risk are extraordinarily complex but will bring great rewards for cancer survivors. Moreover, advances in nanotechnologies and imaging will lead to entirely new directions in clinical vigil, which will be placed not only at the service of patients and oncologists, but also to the family physicians caring for cancer survivors. For example, the development of new nanoparticles composed of sugar, metal or even polyethylene glycol promises to be nontoxic, low cost and deliver novel preventive therapies that could be better focus to potential niche-hidden cancer stem cells.
Increasingly, many technology-intensive research laboratories and their funding agencies are directing their efforts towards the survivors and their follow up. Hence, it will be exciting to see in the coming years the results of these new approaches that are being developed towards prevention and diagnosis for the benefits of those that live lives after cancer.