Cancer: the fight is not stopped by the covid; 4 out of 10 investigational drugs are antitumor

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Cancer continues to be one of the main fronts of the fight for drug research. On the occasion of tomorrow’s World Cancer Day celebration, the pharmaceutical industry highlights that research and new treatments promise to improve survival rates despite the steady increase in cases.

New drugs play a key role in survival for cancer patients. Cancer mortality in Europe in real terms has decreased significantly in the last 25 years. Although between 1995 and 2018 the incidence of cases in EU countries has increased by almost 50%, mortality has only increased by 20%.

Advances in diagnosis, preventive screening programs and, above all, new available treatments have increased 5-year survival rates for the most common cancers in Europe: breast, prostate, colorectal, and lung.

This vital role of new treatments will predictably become more relevant thanks to advances in immunotherapy and genomic research, which have revealed the unique complexities of cancer and changed the way we understand the disease today. It is a statement repeated by the scientific community and healthcare professionals that no two cancers are the same; cancer is much more complex and varied, as is the genetic material of each person.

These advances have broadened our understanding of how cancer develops and how to select drugs for specific cancers, resulting in newer and more effective therapies for patients. In fact, about 85% of the drugs in oncology research will be the first of their kind, which means that they use a new and unique mechanism to treat a disease, according to the report “ Medicines in development in cancer 2020 ” by the employer American pharmaceutical industry, Phrma.

CAR-T-based therapies, monoclonal antibodies, gene therapies and gene editing, immunomodulators, metabolic immunotherapy, or therapies based on gene mutations and RNA are proof of the effort being made by the innovative pharmaceutical industry to find answers to the infinite variety of tumors.

Cancer vaccines deserve special mention, although they are also a form of immunotherapy. On the one hand there are preventive vaccines, aimed at preventing cancer from developing in healthy people, and on the other there are therapeutic vaccines, aimed at treating cancer by strengthening the natural immune response against cancer. Among the former stands out, for example, the vaccine against the human papilloma virus (which causes cervical cancer), and among the latter there are already for prostate cancer or advanced melanoma.

More than 1,300 investigational drugs and vaccines
Thus, the pharmaceutical industry currently has more than 1,360 cancer treatments under development, which this Thursday, February 4, celebrates its World Day. Of these, 145 are for various types of leukemia, which account for more than 3% of all new cancer cases; 141 for lung cancer, one of the tumors with the highest mortality rates; 129 for lymphoma, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which accounts for nearly 5% of all new diagnoses; 108 for breast cancer, the most common tumor in women; 85 for prostate cancer; 72 for multiple myeloma, or the 67 for brain tumors, including gliomas, which account for about 33% of their class.

In Spain, analysis of data from the Spanish Registry of Clinical Studies (REEC) reveals that the Spanish Agency for Medicines (Aemps) authorized more than a thousand trials in 2020, of which 351 belong to the oncology area. In other words, four out of ten studies launched are for cancer, a percentage that grows to almost 50% if only those promoted by pharmaceutical companies, which are the vast majority, are taken into account. “This figure leaves us as the main conclusion that cancer research has not stopped due to the coronavirus. Even in the harshest months of the pandemic, pharmaceutical companies have continued to promote studies to admit patients, when it was the only therapeutic alternative for them, ”explains Amelia Martín Uranga, head of the Platform for Innovative Medicines at Farmaindustria.

Spain remains in clinical research as one of the world leaders also in oncology. An international analysis carried out for the period 2004-2010 pointed out that 16 countries began a clinical trial in cancer before Spain, and now our country occupies the sixth position. “We have improved many positions in this time, although we still have a lot to improve and, above all, to maintain ourselves. We must improve oncology patient recruitment indicators –with 12% of hospitals not recruiting- and we face the challenge of increasingly targeted trials, with fewer patients, so it will be necessary to eliminate administrative barriers so that a A person who lives in an autonomous community that does not have a clinical trial for their tumor underway can join ”, explains Martín Uranga.

This outstanding position of Spain is not the result of chance, but of the work that has been carried out by both public and private agents, which has allowed the disruptive innovation promoted by the pharmaceutical industry to change the course of the disease, the prognosis and the quality of life for many cancer patients.

“The high scientific level of our professionals and health centers and the fact that companies are betting on Spain – for many multinationals our country ranks second in trials, only behind the United States – are the factors that have made it possible that our country is a reference in biomedical research for cancer. This translates into more investments for hospitals, more knowledge for our professionals and, above all, more hope for our patients ”, concludes the coordinator of the Platform for Innovative Medicines of Farmaindustria.

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