Chemotherapy has ceased to be the benchmark in the fight against cancer. The use of antineoplastic to fight cancer cells remains the backbone of the strategy, but other approaches are gaining ground: immunotherapy, personalized medicine and the combination of these drugs with classic agents. The world’s leading researchers are working in three ways. The first of these, immunotherapy, is now considered as the great promise in addressing this disease. And this new generation of drugs that promote Self Defense agency, is expanding its range and is consolidating as an effective tool to combat various types of cancer.

Immunotherapy had proved useful only for metastatic melanoma – first – or some lung and kidney tumors, but recent studies presented these days in the Congress of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) show which may be effective also in other tumors, such as bladder or cervix. Also, for the first time, it has been shown that this group of drugs may have a very promising activity in less advanced stages of the disease, which further explains Javier Cortés, Head of the Breast Cancer and the Unit Melanoma of the Vall d’ Hebron hospital in Barcelona, increases their potential to increase the number of patients who can be cured of this disease.

In this regard, a study conducted by researchers at the Cancer Institute Gustave Roussy Villejuif (France) shows that the use of ipilimumab (one of these new immunological drugs) indicated for the treatment of metastatic melanoma, reduces the risk of recurrence 25 % in patients with stage III melanoma surgery, which could result in an increase of patients cured. The French study, conducted in 951 patients operated and relapse risk — the cancer had already spread to the lymph nodes – shows that those who took ipilimumab (manufactured by Bristol -Myers Squibb) had a survival rate free progression of 46.5% compared with 34.8 % of those taking placebo.

Immunotherapy has been, without doubt, one of the key themes of ASCO – which has gone HOME invited by Boehringer Ingelheim – the key global event on cancer, which was attended by more than 30,000 physicians, researchers and representatives the pharmaceutical industry worldwide, which this year also meets half century. ” This is one of the most important advances in recent years in addressing cancer,” says Cortez. Attack cancer cells through the immune system is not a new concept – William Coley began with it in 1890 -. In fact, it is a strategy that has been developing three decades – with options such as antibodies or vaccines – though with few benefits. Now, drugs that follow this idea are reaping increasingly better results.

Immunotherapy for cancer can follow two paths: strengthening the immune system to have more strength in their fight against cancer cells, or to try to neutralize the response of the tumor cell, which reacts to the attacks. Cancer cells respond in two ways on the offensive lymphocytes (dealing with combat): ‘ donning a disguise ‘ assimilated to the ‘ healthy ‘ cells in order to go unnoticed and lymphocytes (encargas cells defend against infection or tumor cells) do not attack them, or putting a shield that neutralizes the attack. Drugs intended to withdraw the ‘ disguise ‘, ie the cancer cell to reveal his true colors, are still in early stages of experimentation (not yet approved are none). The bulk of the advances in immuno -oncology is registered with drugs that target the tumor cell block can shield to repel the attack of lymphocytes (which makes ipilimumab).

” Immunotherapy not only improves the prognosis of people with cancer; we believe to be the strategy that will cure many patients in the near future, “concluded Javier Cortés.

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