The objective of this meeting has been to present the latest advances in the area of Oncology with experts of national and international origin and to address the main challenges in cancer management.
The pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) has held the first edition of “Leading the Science”, a virtual symposium where national and international experts in the field of Oncology have presented the latest advances in cancer and the potential new challenges to which the research community and cancer specialist will face each other in the next 10 years.
The symposium has been endorsed by the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM), and the Foundation for Excellence and Quality in Oncology (ECO), the Spanish Association for Cancer Research (ASEICA) and the Spanish Group of Cancer Immunotherapy (GETICA).
Among the contents that have been exhibited in these two sessions, the following stand out: the most relevant data communicated this year in different conferences and publications in high impact magazines; focused on long-term survival in a large group of tumors treated with immunotherapy, the role of precision medicine and the necessary personalization of treatment.
New challenges have also been included in the research field, such as the effectiveness of adoptive cell therapy (CAR-T) and its future in solid tumors, and new research programs based on a better understanding of immune resistance mechanisms and a better understanding of the intratumoral heterogeneity, as well as new biomarkers as a source of information for cancer treatment.
It is the first forum aimed at the research community and represents the first meeting point of the new company with this community
The program of this meeting, in which more than 20 speakers from all over the world have participated, has been organized under the leadership of a prestigious national scientific committee made up of Luis Paz-Ares, head of the Oncology department at Hospital 12 de Octubre (Madrid); Emiliano Calvo, director of the Clinical Trials Unit at START Madrid Group of the Clara Campal Oncology Institute (Madrid); Ignacio Melero, co-director in the department of Immunology and Immunotherapy at the University of Navarra (Pamplona); and Ignacio Durán, head of the urological tumors area in the Medical Oncology service at the Marqués de Valdecilla University Hospital and associate researcher at IDIVAL (Santander). Also participating in the closing ceremony were José Cabrera, Medical Director of Bristol Myers Squibb in Spain and Portugal and Yolanda Martinez, Director of Clinical Operations for Spain and Portugal.
ADVANCES IN SCIENCE AGAINST CANCER AND THE CHALLENGES OF THE FUTURE
During the first session, various spokespersons reviewed the highlights of 2020 in the fight against cancer, such as long-term survival in various types of tumors, advances in new mechanisms of action in cancer immunotherapy, or precision medicine as one of the fundamental pillars in the development of new drugs.
In this sense, Paz-Ares has commented that, despite having been a complicated year for world health, unthinkable milestones have been reached in areas of difficult action: “for example, in the treatment of lung cancer, one of the more complex and with higher incidence and mortality; data have been presented that reveal the potential of the combination of two immunotherapies in improving long-term survival in these patients ”. In the words of the expert, something unthinkable until a few years ago, when the chances of survival were very limited.
This has been confirmed by Calvo, who noted that immunotherapy has been a disruptive and unprecedented treatment in the fight against cancer: “the good results fully support the efficacy of these immune therapies. However, our work is to continue in this research and the different clinical challenges that are on the horizon ”.
Experts have emphasized the new challenges they will face for the year 2030. Doctors Paz-Ares and Ignacio Melero have commented that adoptive cell therapy is one of the lines of research that occupies the most people today. professionals. “We are talking about a type of immunotherapy based on the use of agents that enhance the immune system of patients to stimulate specific antitumor responses”, explained Dr. Paz-Ares, underlining that “the use of these genetically modified T cells, especially with chimeric antigen receptors (CAR); they are becoming one of the effective responses to win the battle against some cancers ”.
For his part, Melero has stressed that although this type of therapy has shown great efficacy in hematological tumors, there continue to be certain types of cancer such as multiple myeloma in which there is still a way to go: “therefore, one of the The greatest challenges we face is to develop CAR-T cell treatment strategies for a greater number of hematology cancers and we are convinced to achieve their effective administration in prevalent solid tumors. Several experimental approaches and combined strategies to achieve this goal are underway on their way to clinical trials in patients ”.
Durán has said in this regard that “with this type of cell therapy (CAR-T), we are obtaining good results in clinical trials. Therefore, I can say that in the short and medium term there will be new treatment options. However, it must be taken into account that this therapy does not work the same in hematological tumors as in solid ones since the latter are surrounded by cells that make them less accessible and the toxicity profile is sometimes a limiting factor ”.
TUMOR BIOLOGY AND NEW PREDICTIVE BIOMARKERS OF THE DISEASE
Another challenge to which the experts referred during the second day of the symposium was that of the new Immuno-Oncology based on a greater knowledge of tumor biology.
In Paz-Ares words, understanding the biology of the different subtypes of tumors within the same malignant disease, based on the genomic background, as well as the immunobiological profile of the patient and the tumor and the DNA of the disease, continues to be one of the points to consider. According to this expert, “knowing 100% the biology of tumors will help us to create new ways of managing cancer, to understand the different genetic changes to which it is subjected, to identify the way in which they respond to treatment and to understand how they communicate with cells in their environment, including immune cells ”.
For his part, Melero has talked with the attending specialists about the new biomarkers capable of detecting cancer in an earlier way. “In cancer immunotherapy, finding and validating reliable predictive biomarkers continues to be an area of ??research in which we must improve radically. The complexity of finding biomarkers increases with combinations of various immunotherapy drugs with each other or when they are combined with other conventional cancer treatments. We have to look not only at predictors of response to treatment but also at those quantitative or qualitative parameters that predict non-response to immunotherapy or a low probability of response to treatment ”, concluded this specialist.
Finally, Dr. Cabrera, has highlighted the work that BMS has carried out for years in the field of Oncology, to transform the lives of thousands of patients with such serious diseases: “the objective of our research is to increase the long-term survival and quality of life of patients. We leverage our deep scientific expertise, cutting-edge technologies, and discovery platforms to develop and deliver new therapies for patients. That is our ultimate goal. And thanks to our innovation, we are managing to change the expectations of survival in many types of cancer ”.