One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, according to current estimates. Figures that, in Spain, represent around 35,000 new cases in 2023, according to the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology. The incidence of this pathology continues to grow, but on the positive side, survival and the range of available treatments are also increasing.
In breast tumors, the therapeutic revolution has come in recent years with targeted therapies, which are decided in a personalized way based on the genomic and molecular characteristics of each patient. Thus, the treatments are more specific and offer a more precise, effective and safe approach to the disease. They are treatments that attack cancer cells and, in general, damage healthy cells less than conventional treatments.
“Personalized medicine represents a leap in prevention, diagnosis and treatment, since it has greater effectiveness and fewer adverse effects,” explains the director of the Department of Clinical and Translational Research, Amelia Martín Uranga, who also points out that “in the coming years we must continue to advance in the implementation of early diagnosis, screening and data processing.”
The first targeted therapy against breast cancer was authorized in Europe in 2000, the next was in 2008 and the explosion began in 2018. Since then, 14 new targeted therapies against this disease have been approved.
However, of these 14, Spain has 11 (79%) financed, and those that are have taken an average of 819 days to be available in the National Health System. In addition, 64% have some restrictions, so there are patients who cannot access them.
In this context, the director of the Access Department of Farmaindustria, Isabel Pineros, emphasizes that “it is important to improve access to early detection systems and biomarkers throughout the National Health System, which allow accurate diagnoses so that they can be applied.” optimally precision medicine. “Gone are the collective approaches with the worst benefit-risk balance.”
Two thirds of the trials are already in early phases
The way to find these new medicines is clinical trials, a field in which Spain has strengthened its leadership in recent years. Between 2018 and until June 2023, the Spanish Registry of Clinical Studies (REEC) registered 223 clinical trials in breast cancer, in which there were more than 2,400 participations from health centers throughout Spain.
Another relevant fact about these trials is that 65% of them were early phases (I and II), which means that the women who access them can benefit very early from these new treatments, which for them are often the only hope after the failure of available treatments.
These are figures that reflect the increase in biomedical research in oncology, which in 2022 accounted for more than a third of all clinical studies according to the REEC. This is one of the main areas of research for the pharmaceutical industry, which generally drives 86% of all clinical research carried out in Spain, according to the latest data from the Survey of R&D Activities of the pharmaceutical industry. .
Despite the leadership reflected in clinical research, access to innovative medicines is a pending issue in our country. According to the latest data from the Indicators of Access to New Treatments (W.A.I.T), only 57% of the new oncological treatments approved in Europe are available in Spain. Furthermore, those that are financed do so with an average waiting time of 611 days, compared to 469 days in the previous study.
At the European level, the EU considers the fight against cancer as one of the five pillars of Horizon Europe, the R&D&i framework program in the region. In this sense, the Cancer Mission has been launched, whose objective is to promote advances in innovation in this highly impactful area and save at least three million lives in Europe in the next decade.
On World Breast Cancer Day, which is celebrated on October 19, Farmaindustria reaffirms its commitment to innovation in this area and the importance of practicing prevention and participating in screening programs for early diagnosis, depending on each autonomous community.