The world of medicine is always changing. Here in Orlando, with Medical City, UCF College of Medicine and a list of renowned hospitals with the highest level of care right in our own backyard, medical breakthroughs and advancements are not in short supply.
The Cancer Assassin
In August, Annette Khaled, the head of UCF College of Medicine’s Cancer Research Division, discovered a way to kill metastatic breast cancer cells. According to the American Cancer Society, metastatic cancer is a type of cancer that spreads from its primary location to other parts of the body.
The road to the discovery began when Khaled, nicknamed “the cancer assassin” because of her research, and her team observed a peptide that should have been helping the cell was actually killing it. All cells have proteins that fold in on themselves, but the rate in which cancer cells fold is much faster than regular cells, Khaled explains. If the protein within a cell – particularly a cancer cell – cannot fold, then it dies.
Think of it as throwing something into the gear of a machine to force it to stop working. “If you fold it incorrectly, it has no function,” Khaled says.
Her efforts were funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and also through donations from last year’s AutoNation Cure Bowl. Her research will continue, too.
“There’s a lot more to understand and discover about how this whole system works,” Khaled says. “We’re still going.”
Her groundbreaking method led to a licensing agreement that will quickly push the technology into clinical trials, which could begin as early as next year.
Edging Out Cancer
The team at Varian Medical Systems is focused on achieving the best outcome for patients. One way it does this is through the development of technology in radiosurgery, the fastest-growing area of radiotherapy, or radiation therapy.
Radiosurgery is the delivery of high-energy photon beams directly at a patient’s tumor, leaving it unable to grow and divide. The Edge, a fully integrated radiosurgery suite, rotates around the patient, tracking the tumor as it moves and delivering high-level accuracy. This helps doctors avoid the patient’s healthy tissue during the treatment. The speed and efficiency of the machine allows more patients to be treated – approximately 25 to 40 per day.
“It’s more convenient,” Vice President of Product Solutions Corey Zankowski says. “Thanks to better diagnoses and better treatment, patients are living longer with their disease.”
Another aspect of this technology is RapidPlan, a knowledge-guided treatment planning system that uses machine learning to understand how some of the best oncologists in the world practice radiosurgery. It uses information gathered from other oncologists to compile the best methods and treatments. This system is a part of Varian Medical System’s plan to bring patients and doctors together, reduce confusion and raise the standard of care for patients around the world.