Progress in Cancer Research
Aggiornato il: 29 mar 2019
Cancer can touch you, but not your soul; neither your thoughts, nor your heart.
Cancer is one of the world’s most pressing health care challenges, with more than 14 million people receiving a cancer diagnosis each year. Thanks to investment and progress in cancer research, people today are living longer with this disease than ever before. Basic, molecular, epidemiologic and clinical research are leading to improved cancer prevention, screening, and treatment. Decreasing cancer mortality death rates and increasing numbers of cancer survivors are important indicators of the progress which have been made. But work still needs to be done to reduce the burden of cancer for those who face a diagnosis.
The last ten years have seen remarkable progress in cancer research, aided by technological advances such as the so-called “next-generation sequencing” (NGS). Thanks to large-scale collaborative efforts such as the “International Cancer Genomics Consortium” (ICGC), as well as other initiatives, we now have an ever-increasing understanding of the genes and molecular pathways that are disrupted in cancer.
This knowledge has yielded a cornucopia of new therapies based on drugs that precisely target these alterations. Molecular targeted therapies are now an integral component of cancer patient care, alongside the three pillars of cancer treatment that are surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Cancer genomics, while revealing a treasure well of information about the basic biological processes that become perturbed in cancer, has also made it abundantly clear that cancer is not one disease. Tumors are extremely heterogeneous, with more than 200 different types and subtypes currently recognized.
This has triggered a paradigm shift in the standard of care, away from a one-size-fits-all approach and toward individual or “tailored therapy” whereby treatment decisions are based on the mutational landscape of a patient’s tumor. This approach, commonly referred to as personalized cancer medicine or precision medicine, is still very much in early development, but it clearly represents the future of cancer care. Other examples of important technological advances include the successful application of nanotechnology in cancer biology, which has spurred the development of new agents and targeted delivery systems that bring new hope for treatments that are not only more efficient, but also much less toxic. One of the most recent success stories include the highly encouraging results obtained with the nanodrug form of paclitaxel in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer and also metastatic pancreatic cancer.
In conclusion, continued progress against a disease that is highly heterogeneous and deceptively adaptive will require a sustained, collaborative and global effort. This includes investing in the talent, tools, and infrastructure to support cancer research and biomedical science.
By Asia Fuschini