New hope for patients with cancer

Research is working on personalized treatments against cancer
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The world’s leading cause of mortality for people under 65, more 8 million people each year die of cancer. While there have been important advances in therapeutic treatments in recent years, there is still a need for more innovative medicines to improve survival rates in patients.

 

One of the difficulties in treatment is that every cancer is specific, and needs an adapted treatment. Even within a given tissue or organ, there are many different types of cancer.

Cancer is born from an accumulation of mutations in a normal cell, which gives the cell properties enabling it to proliferate and produce tumors. Normally the body can eliminate such cells thanks to the immune system, but in cancer sufferers, the immune system does not recognize the abnormal cell, allowing it to multiply and produce new tumors in a process called metastasis.

The disease is provoked by a number of factors, including hereditary genetic anomalies, exposure to certain viruses or toxic agents or unhealthy lifestyle behavior.

Key figures on cancer

 

A better targeting for a better treatment

 

The disease is traditionally treated in three different ways, surgery to remove the tumor, radiotherapy, which uses radiation, and chemotherapy, which involves the administration of systemic medicinal substances, both of which destroy diseased cells and prevent them from multiplying. But chemotherapy and radiotherapy, as well as acting on cancerous cells, also destroy healthy cells, explaining their side effects.

Today, better knowledge of the characteristics of cancerous cells makes it possible to develop therapies that target the cancer development mechanisms more specifically, known as personalized medicine or translational research. This is one of Sanofi Oncology’s key areas of focus in its bid to fight against cancer.

Its three main areas of research are being able to wake up and redirect the patient’s immune system to fight abnormal cells; develop specific molecules to the mutation accumulated in the cancerous cells; and use super-powerful molecules to target cancerous cells exclusively.

 

Targeting cancerous cells exclusively

 

These molecules are calls Antibody Drug Conjugates (ADCs) or immunoconjugates. Sanofi Oncology’s research center in Vitry is working on developing these molecules, a targeted form of chemotherapy derived from natural products 100 times more powerful than classic medicines. Immunoconjugates work by binding to the tumor cell, before being transported inside the cell and delivering their highly active molecule to destroy the cell.

This represents a new, patient-centric way of working. In the past, researchers would start with a molecule or a target and look to develop it. Sanofi instead tries to first understand the disease in the patient, then uses a targeted antigen to treat the cancer depending on its type.

It is an exciting time to be involved in oncology, with a convergence of advances in technology, deeper understanding of cancer biology and a desire on behalf of patients to see this type of approach become reality. Through personalized medicine or translational research and a commitment to open innovation, various health industry players are sharing their research and best practices as all parties realize it is critical to work together to do a better job treating cancer and bring new hope to patients around the world.

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