Interventional Oncology: The 4th Pillar of Modern Oncology
Cancer has riveted doctors’ minds for long. Various techniques have been developed to treat cancer. Surgery and radiation though proven to be helpful, they have come with their own set of challenges. Since then, a period of stagnation has gone by, as far as cancer research is concerned. Recently, oncologists have turned to a new technique of interventional radiology called as interventional oncology. This new technique has helped not only in treatment of cancer, but also in reducing the pain associated with it. Interventional oncology can prove to be the future of cancer treatment.
Cancer is a dreaded condition. It has been one of the leading causes of deaths in the world. In 2018, according to WHO, cancer claimed approximately 9.6 million lives globally, that is, one out of every six deaths were due to cancer. Cancer is lifestyle related, non-communicable disease having a prolonged latent period. Earlier, it was considered to be a terminal illness but extensive research in the medical field has yielded extremely positive results. Today, cancer can not only be cured, but it can be made sure that the patient is fully recuperated. Various technologies and specialized medical techniques have now been employed to make this possible. Interventional oncology is one such technique.
Interventional oncology, oncology being the study of cancer, is youngest subspecialty field of interventional radiology. Interventional oncology adopts minimally invasive medical technique by using a combination of diagnostic images to treat cancerous tumors while ensuring least possible injury to other bodily organs and tissues. Despite being the youngest, interventional oncology has emerged to be the fastest growing branch of interventional radiology, so much so that it is now considered as a distinct pillar of modern oncology; the other three being- radiation, medical, and surgical.
How does Interventional Oncology Work?
Interventional oncology focuses on three areas of cancer treatment: diagnosis, therapy, and symptom palliation. For that, it primarily uses cross-sectional imaging such as computed tomography (CT), positron emission tomography (PET), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In the diagnostic part of this treatment, samples of the tissues, which are suspected to be malignant, are taken from the body with the help of needles. The next step of the procedure, that is the interventional oncology therapy, includes ablation technique or the embolization technique. In the ablation technique, some sort of heat or similar such corrosive agent is used to cure the tumor. Embolization technique, on the other hand, focuses on blocking of the arteries that feed the tumor, thus curing the tumor by ischemia. Both these techniques, ablation and embolization, are minimally invasive, meaning, they don’t require any surgery.
Why is Interventional Oncology Becoming Popular?
One way to adjudge the popularity of any technology or innovation is to take a look at its market size. From a market analysis point-of-view, forecasts show that, for the 2020-2028 timeframe, the global interventional oncology market will be surging at a healthy CAGR of 6.7% in the 2021–2028 timeframe. A major reason behind the success and widespread use of interventional oncology is that it can treat and cure both primary cancers and metastatic cancers, i.e., cancers which have spread to other parts of the body. These include:
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Breast cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Bone cancer
Along with its diverse scope of treatment, another prime reason behind its popularity is that it causes minimal harm to the body organs which don’t contain malignant tissues. While patients opt for interventional oncology mainly because of these two reasons, oncologists prefer this treatment mainly because some tumors are so big or so deep inside the body that surgery cannot work in such cases. Interventional oncology in such cases, either completely cures the tumor or shrinks the tumor to such a size that surgery becomes possible. Thus, interventional oncology offers a win-win situation for both, oncologists and patients.
Future of Interventional Oncology
Use of Artificial Intelligence in healthcare is becoming such a regular phenomenon these days, that renowned universities like Stanford have started a specialization course for it. The field of oncology has not seen any deviation from this phenomenon. The sheer number of cancer patients around the world and the limited number of expert oncologists has been the major reason behind this thought of employing artificial intelligence and auxiliary robotic systems to perform the interventional oncology treatment. Moreover, since interventional oncology is extensively dependent on diagnostic image guidance, adoption of AI and robotics was a matter of time. Along with AI and robotics, research is being carried out to develop hybrid MRI and X-ray fluoroscopy systems to provide precision while targeting the tumor cells. Development of 3D imaging techniques and therapeutic ultrasound is also underway, which will augment this technology further.
Till decades ago, treatment of cancer was considered to be one of the biggest challenges in front of humankind. Numerous oncologists and scientists dedicated their lives for one sole purpose- devising a treatment which will make cancer a curable disease. Interventional oncology and the R&D in its field is fulfilling that purpose.
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