During an informative session in La Hulpe organised by Bristol Myers Squibb, a leading biopharmaceutical company in immuno-oncology research, Prof. Dr. Bart Neyns, a leading expert in cancer research and treatment and Head of Medical Oncology at the UZ Brussel, spoke about the progress in the fight against cancer, the future of immunotherapy, and the effects on the quality of life and prognosis of patients. The most important aspects that were discussed are presented below.
10 years of progress for cancer patients
After 150 years without significant evolution in cancer treatment, we are now talking about a revolution with the introduction of immunotherapy. 10 years ago, cancer patients could only rely on surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and cytotoxic/targeted therapeutic treatments. Immunotherapy changed this treatment paradigm with the goal of achieving an immune response against the tumor, allowing eradication or long-term suppression of tumor growth, and the generation of immunological memory. It all started with the discoveries of Jim Allison (CTLA-4) and Tasuku Honjo (anti-PD-1), in 1992 and 1996 respectively, as the catalysts for this revolution in cancer treatment.
In ten years, the quality of life and life expectancy of patients has changed significantly. Dr. Paul Lacante, Medical Director for BMS commented, "Immunotherapy and combination therapies in cancer treatment have redefined the overall survival curve for patients with melanoma, kidney cancer and non-small cell lung cancer, and have made long-term survival a reality in multiple advanced tumor types. The use of these therapies continues to be expanded in the early stages of cancer to prevent recurrence, reduce rates of metastatic disease and give patients hope for the future.”
Close-up on melanoma
Today, patients are offered better prospects for hope. Prof. Dr. Bart Neyns, Head of the Department of Medical Oncology at UZ Brussel, testified to the effectiveness of these treatments and the benefits they have on patients. "Many patients come to me distraught, and immunotherapy is often their last resort. We are very pleased with the progress we have made. Thanks to immunotherapy treatments, the majority of patients experience fewer side effects than with chemotherapy. These advances give us confidence in the future of cancer treatment."