SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – In the United States, of all diseases cancer gets the most funding for research and as a result, there are many breakthroughs when it comes to technology, diagnostic tools, and treatments.

Just the number of clinical trials for investigational drugs targeting cancer has nearly quadrupled since 2000. Research and developments in technology are rapidly changing the way cancer is treated in the United States. At Baystate Medical Center, the department of radiology has developed new tools to better and more exactly treat patients using a 3-D printer.

“With a 3-D printer, we can reconstruct a patient’s anatomy on the computer and create a custom mold,” Dr. Michael Yunes, Division Chief of Radiation Oncology at Baystate Regional Cancer Program showed 22News.

A mold can be made for patients who are undergoing radiation treatment. Not only is it more comfortable for a patient, but most importantly, it doesn’t move around on the body, allowing for a more targeted treatment. When it comes to radiation, Dr. Yunes said the more targeted, the better.

“The other thing we do here that most paces around the country don’t do is surface 3-D printing brachytherapy,” said Dr. Yunes.

This is used for treating skin cancers and other surface cancers like lymphomas. A custom 3-D printed applicator is created for the patient to deliver radiation. Radiation travels through the tubes. Dr. Yunes says the use of the model cuts down on visits, is more comfortable, and more effective than traditional delivery methods.

Dr. Yunes said they also use the printer for educational purposes. The team is able to create a visual representation of a tumor so a patient can better understand their cancer.

In addition to new technology, new and experimental drugs are available in clinical trials. Mary Grocott is seeking treatment at Dana Farber and chose to enroll in a late-stage clinical trial to treat her cancer which started out in her colon and spread to her lungs.

“It’s immunotherapy, so it’s targeted. It’s an infusion, I have a port,” Grocott says as she is tolerating the drug very well, however, it’s too early to tell how much of a difference it has made yet.

Another new way to treat cancer is to target the protein found in that cancer. That protein can pop up in many different types of cancer.

“For example, a breast cancer that over-expresses a protein called HER2+, we may see that same molecular change in gastric cancer and use the same drug for breast cancer in gastric cancer because they share that same change,” Dr. Grace Makari-Judson, Medical Director at Cancer Center and Division Chief of Hematology/Oncology said.

Doctors said if you want to know about every drug and technology that could help you in your fight against cancer, start by having a conversation with your specialist.

Local News

Alanna Flood is a reporter who has been a part of the 22News team since 2022. Follow Alanna on X @alannafloodnews and view her bio to see more of her work.