What are we doing in the field of oncology?
For more than 50 years, Bristol Myers Squibb has been committed to developing new and innovative medicines for cancer treatment. BMS has become a leader in oncology with a comprehensive portfolio of both approved and investigational medicines.
- Our focus lies in tumour biology and translational research. In translational research, we translate scientific findings into information that can be used to advance specific therapies. Many standard cancer treatments work in a more general manner, such as chemotherapy. Translational research helps to make those treatments both more targeted and more personalised. We learn more about the biology of the tumour and then develop specific ways to treat it. This results in the right treatments for right patients at the right time.
- In IO-responsive tumours, our aim is to increase, deepen and/or extend the body’s natural response in recognising and destroying cancer cells. However, not everyone reacts equally well to IO therapy, and identifying this resistance is an important question in immunotherapy that BMS is also researching.
- We are exploring options for patients who currently cannot be treated using checkpoint inhibitors. Treatment with checkpoint inhibitors is a form of immunotherapy that is currently the most widely used. The checkpoint inhibitors are administered to the patient and activate the immune system so that the immune cells can more easily recognise and destroy the cancer cells. In addition, we are conducting significant research into other types of immunotherapy, such as CAR T therapy, where the patient's own cells are modified and re-injected to destroy the cancer cells.
For the past decade, immunotherapy has been transforming the world of oncology and brought new hope for people with cancer. The quality of life and life expectancy of patients has changed significantly. Watch below the powerful testimonials from Denise, Kris, Rita, Johan and Erwin.
Bristol Myers Squibb: Pioneers in immuno-oncology
Ten years of immunotherapy for cancer
In 2022, it will be ten years since ipilimumab became the first immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICR) to be reimbursed for the treatment of advanced melanoma in Belgium. This marked the beginning of a new era in cancer treatment.
What is an immune checkpoint inhibitor?
Ipilimumab is a medicine containing checkpoint inhibitors that reactivate the patient’s immune system response. Some cancer cells actually inhibit T cells, a particular type of cell that allows the body to recognise and attack cancer cells. This inhibition prevents these cells from recognising the cancer and grows the cancer cells. Medications containing checkpoint inhibitors prevent this inhibition from happening.
There are two types of checkpoint inhibitors. Some medications inhibit the PD-1 checkpoint, while others inhibit the CTLA-4 checkpoint. Ipilimumab is a CTLA-4 inhibitor; however, BMS has also developed a PD-1 inhibitor with nivolumab.
The introduction of these medicines has significantly impacted treatment strategies in cancer care, improving prognosis in several types of tumours.
10 years ago, patients diagnosed with advanced (unresectable or metastatic) melanoma received a poor prognosis, and the available treatments offered little hope. As a result, only one in four patients were still alive one year after diagnosis. Today, we have developed immunotherapies with more than 49% of patients still alive 6.5 years after diagnosis.*
In addition to their use in monotherapy, different ICRs are also being studied in combination with each other to further improve their effectiveness. Combination immunotherapy has now been approved for several indications.
*Korn et al. 2008 meta-analyis for the introduction of immunotherapy and targeted therapy: 25% of patients still alive after 1 year – median life expectancy 6 months/IPI alone : 20% (Schadendorf et al. JCO 2015)/Larkin et al. 2019 Wolchonk et al. JCO 2021.
Our initiatives for optimising cancer patient care
In addition to researching, developing, and providing medicines, BMS also offers support to patients and cancer care professionals through various initiatives.
We also support patients through prevention campaigns, disease awareness campaigns, sponsorships, congresses, and events, and by working with health professionals, hospitals, and renowned specialists from patient organisations.
In Belgium, we have set up an educational website to improve knowledge and understanding of cancer and cancer treatments. The educational content is also available for hospitals to integrate into their own platforms and patients’ interactions.
Patients can find up-to-date information about cancer, immunology, and other treatments on this website. Besides medical information, they will also find articles about living with cancer and testimonies from other patients.
The website also has a section for nurses and doctors, namely the ImmunoScience Academy (ISA). ISA is a multidisciplinary educational platform providing information on immunology.
All.Can Belgium is a multi-stakeholder organisation mobilising the Belgian cancer care community to achieve sustainable, efficient, innovative, and patient-centred cancer care.
Bristol Myers Squibb is the founding partner of All.Can Belgium. The organisation supports various projects to improve patient-centred decision-making for the treatment of cancer patients. In addition, All.Can Belgium recently campaigned to continue cancer treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic and calls for greater attention to the late diagnosis of cancer in young people, among other things.