Innovative therapies are helping millions survive cancer

June 5, 2022 is National Cancer Survivors Day, a day to celebrate those who have survived cancer, inspire those recently diagnosed and support the families affected. A cancer diagnosis is a frightening experience, but new innovative therapies and state-of-the-art therapeutic devices are helping more people survive than ever before. Thanks to advances in prevention, detection and treatment, more than 16.9 million Americans are alive today after being diagnosed with cancer.

“In recent years, we have seen truly groundbreaking developments in cancer treatment,” said Hazem F. Elkassas, MD, who specializes in oncology and hematology at Penn Highlands Oncology/Hematology. “Researchers now believe that there isn’t one single way to cure cancer. Rather, treatment will be personalized to each person, and a range of therapies will be used to create the most effective treatment plan possible for every patient.”

penn higlands healthcare mammography


Cancer is sneaky. Cancer cells can dodge the immune system, tricking it into thinking they are not a threat and preventing the body from responding. That’s where new immunotherapy drugs come into play.

Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. It works by boosting the immune system so that it can better find and attack cancer cells. Immunotherapy treatment also uses synthetic substances that mimic components in the immune system in order to restore or improve its response.

Targeted therapy

Whereas immunotherapy helps the immune system recognize and attack cancer cells, targeted therapy uses drugs or other substances to directly target those cells. Researchers have discovered some of the differences in cancer cells that enable them to grow and spread. Knowing these differences, researchers have created targeted drugs that identify and attack the proteins and enzymes that help cancer cells replicate. Targeted drugs can either turn off the signals that make cancer cells grow, or they can send a signal to the cells that causes it to destroy itself.

Precision surgery

In cancer cases involving solid tumors, surgery is one of the best treatments available. But surgeons often have difficulty removing all of the diseased tissue because they have limited view of the tumor.

Innovative robotic-assisted technology such as the da Vinci System enable surgeons to perform complex operations with more precision than ever. This technology features a magnified 3D high-definition vision system and tiny wristed instruments that bend and rotate far greater than the human wrist, giving surgeons greater vision, precision, dexterity and control.

“These new technologies are the next frontier in cancer treatment, and it’s a future that’s already begun,” said Dr. Elkassas. “At Penn Highlands, we have invested heavily in immunotherapy, da Vinci robotic-assisted surgery and other advancements that are helping us successfully treat patients right now.”

Penn Highlands Healthcare offers highly experienced care, innovative therapies and state-of-the-art technology at locations throughout the region. Penn Highlands Healthcare also provides cancer screenings, including mammograms, colon cancer screening, prostate cancer testing and lung cancer screening to help patients detect cancer at its earliest stages when it is most treatable. To make an appointment or to learn more, visit