Let's Beat Cancer with Innovation!
The 4th of February 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of World Cancer Day, a global initiative aimed at raising worldwide cancer awareness and encouraging “personal, collective, and government action.” Cancer remains a heavy burden on individuals, families and communities. A quarter of the global cancer cases occurs in Europe, which has only one eighth of the global population. Cancer is the second highest cause of death and morbidity on the continent.
Despite the continued challenge we face, biomedical research has reached significant milestones in our understanding of this disease. The last two decades have witnessed several biotechnological breakthroughs. Whereas cancer used to be treated as one single disease, bioscience has allowed us to recognise individual tumour types and to customise treatment to individual patients. Investments in scientific research have led to a better understanding of cancer biology and the use of our immune system against it. This, combined with advancements in genomics, has enabled scientists to better target and treat specific forms of cancer, opening possibilities for the transformation of the cancer treatment landscape.
Such ground-breaking biotechnological innovations are already being trialled today. Advanced therapies, which were once considered science of the future, already find themselves in use in real-life clinical settings. One example of this cutting-edge bioscience is that of CAR T (chimeric antigen receptor t-cell therapy). This therapy is a process, whereby a cancer patient’s T-cells are extracted from the body, designed to identify and attack the cancer cells, before being reintroduced to the patient. CAR-T therapies help patients with blood cancers, for example, achieve complete remission rates of more than 50%.
Another revolutionary biotechnological innovation showing immense potential against cancer is the gene-editing technique CRISPR-Cas9. CRISPR-Cas9 allows scientists to precisely add, remove, or alter genetic material of the DNA, serving as a promising tool for further improving the effectiveness of advanced therapies against cancer.
Here, we are only beginning to scratch the surface of the medical revolution that biotechnology is presenting to society. There are many more treatments out there on the horizon, from personalised cancer vaccines, and oncolytic viruses, to radioligand therapies. Every new revolutionary treatment starts with an idea. It is now up to policy makers to provide the right stimuli to enable the biotech eco-system to turn what was once “just an idea” into the cancer treatment of the future.
Today, on World Cancer Day, the European Commission is bringing together stakeholders to begin its outreach on the “Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan”. EuropaBio and its members join the EU’s collective effort for positive change for a healthier future. We firmly believe that innovative biotech treatments will be critical in the fight to beat cancer.
By Bernard Grimm, Healthcare Director, EuropaBio