Conventional cancer treatment methods are infamous for their secondary effects on the body. Chemotherapy uses harsh chemicals and drugs to destroy cancerous tumors within the body, but some side effects of chemotherapeutical treatments include: vomiting, nausea, fever, low appetite, hair loss, fatigue, pain, mouth sores, and an elevated risk of bruising. In such a weakened state, the body is also less capable of fighting off secondary infections, and a variety of common illnesses (among them the common cold) can wreak havoc on a chemotherapy patient’s immune system. With radiation therapy, where radiation is used to shrink tumors (generally to get them down to an acceptable operable size), the side effects can be even more serious. Radiation therapy bombards tumors as well as the body’s own tissues with radiation. In addition to shrinking cancerous tumors, radiation therapy does tremendous damage to the body’s healthy tissues.
Fortunately for cancer patients worldwide, new advances in medical science have allowed researchers to make headway against cancerous tumors in a way that takes advantage of the body’s own natural defenses against cancer. New cancer treatment research has focused on finding ways to treat cancerous tumors effectively while minimizing harmful side effects on the human body. Nanotechnology, a field in which scientists seek to change the properties of matter by manipulating compounds on a molecular (and even atomic) level, has allowed for the creation of “smart” cancer treatment drugs, as well as new methods of drug delivery. The use of “smart” cancer treatment drugs forces the treatment to differentiate between cancerous tumors and the body’s natural tissues. This was previously impossible, due to the fact that cancerous tumors are the body’s own natural tissue, and the main impediment to less harmful methods of cancer treatment was that conventional treatment was unable to discern between normal body tissue and cancerous tumors.
Beyond intelligent drug delivery, new cancer treatment methods have focused on the structure of the tumor wall, which separates cancerous tumors from normal tissues within the body. The structure of this wall may be different depending on the type of cancer a person has, but the tumor wall itself is the primary barrier between the body recognizing the cancerous tumor as a foreign body and attacking it using T-cells, the weapons of the human immune system. Researchers are working on ways to destabilize tumor walls for a variety of different cancers. If tumor walls can be reliably broken, the body’s own natural defenses can go a long way toward curing a person of their cancer. This method is highly preferable considering the current alternatives, given that radiation therapy and chemotherapy are extremely expensive, damaging to the body, and by no means 100% effective.