Cancer treatments are always progressing: in addition to diagnostic and surgical improvements, in recent years there has also been a whole battery of new drugs based on precision medicine, drugs that target the specific particularities of each tumor in each patient.
Nevertheless, a new obstacle has arisen in the fight. Tumors are able to evolve and adapt to the treatment, becoming resistant. In a way they behave like an infection trying to survive. To overcome this resistance, researchers are working on different approaches: analyzing the full genetics of tumors to better understand them and define better treatments, monitor their evolution and detect their weaknesses; at the same time, they are researching drug combinations to make it more difficult for tumors to escape their action; and for the past few years, they have been developing what is called oncology immunotherapy, the great hope in the fight against cancer in recent years, based on stimulating the body’s own defenses to attack and control tumors. And all with sights set on the rising price of drugs, which threatens to make it difficult for the general public to afford them.
In order to present and discuss the latest advances, challenges and difficulties in the fight against cancer, national and international experts met for a B·Debate, an initiative of Biocat and the “la Caixa” Foundation to promote scientific debate.
- Cancer treatments have improved prognosis in recent years, however the resistance tumors develop to treatments has been underestimated and is now the greatest obstacle facing the fight against cancer.
- Immunotherapy, which consists in stimulating our own defenses to fight tumors, is the great hope in oncology, and this is where much research is being focused.
- Large-scale genetic studies are allowing us to better understand the characteristics of each tumor and its weaknesses. The therapies of the future will be drug combinations to make it more difficult for tumors to escape their action.
- The increasing price of drugs is a growing problem. Some of the solutions involve better dialog between the industry and administrations, for example through what is known as results-based agreements (the hospital only pays the industry if the drug works).