November 18, 2019
Combination cancer treatments are the most successful

Photo: Ray Stanyard

Dr. Timothy W. Bolek says radiotherapy can bridge the gap between drug therapy and surgery.

Cancer Care

Combination cancer treatments are the most successful

Carlton Proctor | 1/25/2019

In treating cancer, the new frontier is immunotherapy, the re-engineering and strengthening of a patient’s own antibodies to recognize and destroy cancer cells. But the most successful cancer treatments often involve a combination of surgery, radiation and immunotherapy.

Dr. Timothy W. Bolek, a radiation oncologist with Capital Regional Cancer Center in Tallahassee, talked with FLORIDA TREND about the latest in cancer care.

  • Surgery: “Nothing is potentially more effective than surgery for taking care of an individual tumor. And the bigger the tumor is, the greater the potential benefits of surgery.

Taking a grapefruit-sized tumor out of the body, you’re going to be removing a billion cancer cells in one fell swoop. And neither drug therapy nor radiation therapy can do that.

The failing of surgery is that it doesn’t do any good for things that aren’t safe to remove, such as a tumor in a vital organ, and it also does not prevent the disease from coming back in the body.”

  • Drug therapy: “On the drug therapy side, there has been an explosion of knowledge about the molecular biology of cancers and an explosion of immunotherapies; and I think this will continue.

Unfortunately, not every cancer has a target that we know we can treat. But the ones that we do know we can treat with immunotherapy drugs, we’ve seen really remarkable results.

The advantage of drug therapy is that it treats the entire body, and it’s the only treatment that can reduce the chance of the cancer relapsing in a vital organ or in lymph nodes.”

  • Radiotherapy: “Radiotherapy is a kind of bridge between drug therapy and surgery. One of the major benefits of drug therapy is that it actually sensitizes cancer cells to radiation.

If I were to give a patient a certain dose of radiotherapy one time, let’s say it would kill 90% of the cancer cells in the target tumor. But there would still be 10% of the cancer cells remaining that were damaged, but not killed. However, because of the radiation, the immune system can now recognize those remaining damaged cells and become more effective in killing them.”

Read more in our February issue.

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