Commemorating the 14th year of the ‘International Brain Tumor Awareness week’ (from October 24 to 31), the International Brain Tumor Alliance is once again focused on raising awareness of the prevalence of brain tumors. Above all, promoting the need for higher efforts in research by experts, and response from people, worldwide. Although, this year, the people are encouraged to spread awareness through virtual talks, and even by initiating social media funding campaigns.
All about the Facts & Stats – A Quick Overview
The abnormal growth (tumor) observed in the brain cells significantly impacts a person’s nervous system, being either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). In the case of malignant, the tumor spreads faster, severely affecting a person’s well-being. Besides, it can also spread through other parts of the body like the breast, bladder, lung, or kidney to the brain.
There are numerous misconceptions concerning brain tumors, it being a rare form of cancer, and all patients have similar symptoms, results in the need for better awareness relating to its treatment and diagnosis. The major concerning factor relating to brain cancer is that it creates significant pressure on the brain, causing cognitive dysfunction. In some cases, the malignant tumors can even grow after the treatment. The patients deal with several problems such as fatigue, seizers, and even intense nausea.
Even while considering the survival rate, the age, type of tumor, size, and grade (the rate at which it is likely to grow) are important factors to analyze. Here, the survival rate of young adults is observed to be better than geriatric patients (among common tumors). Still, the exact data to determine the survival rate for all brain tumors are considered hard to classify.
Several research suggest that around 1.4 million patients are battling malignant brain tumors, globally, with another 256,000 expected to be diagnosed with a malignant type of brain tumor by the end of this year. The brain and other nervous system cancer are termed the 10th leading cause of death, with brain tumors accounting for 85 to 90% of primary CNS tumors.
In May, the American Cancer Society estimated that around 23,890 malignant brain or spinal cord tumors are expected to be registered in the United States. It has also predicted about 18,020 patients to lose their battle against brain and CNS tumors. This generates several concerns for the people at large, creating anxiety among the patients.
According to previous statistics, in 2016, East Asia had a high prevalence of central nervous system (CNS) cancer in both genders, followed by Western Europe and South Asia regions. In 2017, the incidence of malignant CNS and brain tumors were witnessed higher in Europe, Canada, the United States, and Australia. As per a World Cancer Research Journal (2019), the cases relating to brain tumors surged in all ages, observing a 40% increase in the adult population.
Technology playing the White Knight in Developments
Interestingly, the application of big data analytics and machine learning has helped organizations to advance their cancer research. For instance, earlier in June, Vanderbilt University researchers adopted automated machine learning techniques to analyze millions of cancer cells, which led to discovering new cancer cell types found in brain tumors, as reported by health analytics. Also, there has been rapid growth in surgical procedures with the adoption of cortical mapping and advanced 3D imaging to locate the tumor accurately. Brightmatter Guide is a device that functions as a GPS providing real-time 3-D images, permitting neurosurgeons to map secure pathways and remove tumors.
Depending upon the type and the size of the tumor, the treatment concerning brain tumor ranges from radiation therapy to chemotherapy. In recent years, immunotherapy has shown promising potential in treating brain cancers, taking advantage of the patient’s own immune system to kill cancer cells. For instance, Glioblastoma is among the chronic cancers, with a patient’s survival time of 15 to 16 months. Researchers have determined that immunotherapy drugs can assist in extending the patient’s life, if directed before the surgery.
Recently, the Hoag Family Cancer Institute and Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute at Hoag, collaborated with Nascent Biotech Inc., declaring a first clinical trial in Japan for novel immunotherapy treatment. This targeted immunotherapy, unlike chemotherapy, targets only cancer cells, holding promising results for Glioblastoma.
While extending the findings, cannabis has proven to be useful for therapeutical purposes. In terms of treating brain tumors, CBD and radiotherapy’s combination shows the potential to slow tumor growth. This potential display has encouraged research and clinical trials before fully implementing their use.
Impact of COVID-19 on Brain Tumor Treatments
Since the pandemic outbreak, numerous medical treatments and procedures have been disrupted, causing distress to patients suffering from severe conditions. In cases like brain tumors, patients have faced critical challenges in continuing the treatment, owing to the risk associated with virus transmission. This has created insecurities relating to maintaining existing diagnosis and treatment standards.
Given the time, several institutes released protocols to safeguard patients from the virus, and allow timely treatments. One such guideline entails that if a patient is receiving tumor treating fields (TTF) treatment, the procedure is required to be done remotely at home with training given to family members to avoid the risk of the virus in hospital settings. To regulate safety, surgical robotics technology offers medical professional tools to carry out surgeries efficiently, ensuring the patient’s overall safety.
While analyzing the future of brain tumor treatments, it is evident that more effective groundwork is required to discover new drugs for patients. Above all, there is a dire need to educate people on the series of challenges faced in treating such ruthless conditions. Also, with the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, a change in the course of treatment & diagnostics methods is inevitable. This calls for an open-mind towards innovative techniques to ensure the best service possible.