Biotechnology, also known as biotech, first made its debut when recombinant DNA technology was in its development stages in the 1970s and 1980s. At that time, recombinant DNA technology was an early form of genetic engineering. Scientists were emerging genetic sequences from separate organisms in innovative processes that positively contributed to patient treatment or management of specific diseases.
Now, for the past forty years, modern precision medicine has deemed biotechnology as its backbone. With biotech, oncologists can personalize cancer treatment plans based on the patient’s genetic code and target specific DNA mutations to empower the immune system to fight against cancer cells.
Kevin Dalby, UT Austin chemical biology and medicinal chemistry professor, is optimistic about the future of cancer treatments, especially when factoring in biotech’s involvement. Dr. Dalby is a research specialist in the field of cancer drug discovery. His research areas include biochemistry, cancer, cell biology, chemical biology, drug discovery & diagnostics, and enzymology. Below, Kevin Dalby further explores three ways biotechnology is used to advance cancer treatments.
Way #1: Targeting Harder Treatments
Cancer takes many lives every year; more than 9.6 million people worldwide lose their battle to cancer annually. As the experience in biotech continues to gain momentum, the focus is geared towards addressing high unmet needs for cancer types that are considered hard to treat, such as thoracic and glioblastoma cancer. Biotech is turning a new leaf for these types of patients with new and improved therapies as options. Biotechnology allows researchers, physicians, scientists, and clinicians to come together and advance by sharing knowledge for the betterment of cancer patients thanks to having the correct type of technology to reach such stepping stones.
Way #2: Fueling Innovation and Understanding for the Future
In the past, cancer treatments have been limited to surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, which have been proven as staples for cancer care since the 1940s. Biotechnology allows for advancers to look beyond these current therapies to new and better approaches, especially as cancer progresses. More than fifty years ago, blood cancer was categorized into two types, which were lymphoma and leukemia. Present-day, researchers have found an estimate of fifty various types of lymphoma and forty different kinds of leukemia. The accelerated knowledge surrounding the vitality behind understanding each individual’s diagnosis or condition’s personalized nature thanks to biotechnology is proof that cancer is not one but hundreds of evolving diseases.
Way #3: Increasing the Market and Therapies
In today’s world, the biotechnology market is one of the world’s biggest industries and continuously growing as technology advances. Thanks to its ever-evolving market and technology, biotech has played an enormous role in the advancements of cancer treatments, including immuno-oncology, monoclonal antibodies, CAR-T, and so much more. Monoclonal antibodies were invented back in 1983, and the field has only improved quickly since. The area of immuno-oncology has emerged with much excitement as its platform can be utilized for multiple types of tumors.
About Kevin Dalby
Kevin Dalby, UT Austin professor at the College of Pharmacy, is currently intensively involved with cancer drug discovery. Dr. Dalby’s efforts were recognized by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and the National Institutes of Health, granting him nearly $5 million to support his research. The doctor’s research areas include biochemistry, cancer, cell biology, chemical biology, drug discovery & diagnostics, and enzymology. Through his work and by understanding cancer cell signaling, Dr. Dalby works to better diagnoses and utilize technological advances to develop targeted pharmaceuticals for various cancers.