Research in breast cancer: more survival and better quality of life

Nine out of ten women diagnosed in Spain survive to 5 years
The development of more precise, effective treatments with fewer side effects, together with the increase in early detection, has made possible a shift in the prognosis of the disease

This Monday, October 19, is celebrated the International Day of Breast Cancer


The Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM) estimates in its latest report on cancer figures in our country that 2020 will close with about 33,000 new breast cancer diagnoses, making it one of the three most frequently diagnosed tumors in Spain -Together with colon and rectum-. The effort of the health system for early diagnosis, but especially advances in research, access to innovation and the arrival of monoclonal antibodies and their combination, as well as immunotherapy, are responsible for the survival rates in this cancer is already 86%, that is, almost nine out of ten patients will be free of relapses 5 years after diagnosis.

This impressive progress towards reducing mortality rates from breast cancer has not limited the commitment of the pharmaceutical industry to research in this disease and today more than a hundred drugs are in any of the clinical phases of the process , as collected by the American employer Phrma, which represents almost 10% of the 1,100 drugs and vaccines currently under development to combat cancer.

The Spanish Registry of Clinical Studies (REEC), dependent on the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (Aemps), reflects this incessant research work and the relevant role of Spain: it includes 283 ongoing trials for breast cancer, of which almost a third are already in phase III of the R&D process, and the vast majority of them promoted by pharmaceutical companies.

The value of this research effort has been recognized these days by the president of the SEOM, Álvaro Rodríguez-Lescure, who stated that “the prognosis of breast cancer has been gradually improving in recent years thanks to research. New drugs have been developed that increase the survival of patients with breast cancer. The patients have been better stratified and genomic panels have been developed that allow differentiating which patients benefit from chemotherapy and which do not.

One of the most significant milestones in recent years in research has been the knowledge of the heterogeneity of breast cancer, which encompasses three different diseases: hormone-sensitive tumors, defined by positive / HER2-negative hormone receptors; tumors with overexpression of HER2, and triple negative tumors, defined by the absence of expression of hormone receptors and HER2.

In this sense, monoclonal antibodies, immunotherapy and the appearance of new biologics have been optimizing therapeutic strategies for these patients and are producing significant changes in the evolution of the disease. They are also managing to delay the use of chemotherapy in advanced disease, which implies a significant benefit in the quality of life of patients.

Personalized medicine is also playing an important role in breast cancer. Thanks to the development of genomic tests – which more reliably analyze the profile of the tumor and its risk of relapse – a greater adequacy of treatment is being achieved, avoiding unnecessary chemotherapies in patients who will not benefit.

The challenge of metastatic breast cancer

It is precisely in directed therapies and in treatments adapted to each patient that the Spanish Breast Cancer Federation (Fecma) is looking to fight against one of the pending challenges of the disease: metastatic breast cancer: «For us It is a concern and a priority, because it affects the personal, family and professional life of the patient and causes complex needs. We are aware that it will be research and innovation that will make it possible to eradicate, or at least control, metastatic breast cancer. Women with metastatic breast cancer need to feel supported and show themselves to be people who know the path to take. Cancer is part of your life, it does not determine the integrity of your life.

All of these advances would not have been possible without the contribution of the innovative pharmaceutical industry to the field of new treatment research. In the case of Spain, oncology in general is the therapeutic area that currently brings together the greatest efforts in R&D for new drugs.

The strength of the health system, the high level of training of its professionals, the support of health administrations, the growing involvement of patients and the commitment of the pharmaceutical industry are helping to promote Spain as an area of ??excellence in terms of clinical trials , also in oncology.

This Monday, October 19, International Breast Cancer Day is celebrated around the world, which once again floods the day with its iconic pink ribbon.

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