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Progress of research – the experts speak

Four people deeply involved in science, innovation and treatment in the field of oncology and pillars of the project driven by Synergie Lyon Cancer, speak openly about recent advances achieved in understanding cancers and the development of new therapies.

The emergence of targeted therapies 

I have long expressed the message that a cancer researcher must be extremely modest: there was a lasting gap between the efforts expended and the therapeutic solutions we were able to provide. However, thanks to fundamental research, the care of persons with genetic risks has improved considerably. Above all, the recent emergence of targeted therapies has sparked a revolution in the development of anti-cancer drugs. Thirty years ago, it required two decades between the discovery of a mutation linked to cancer and the development of a drug. Technological progress has now halved that period”. Alain Puisieux, the man behind the initial project of Synergie Lyon Cancer and Director of the Cancer Research Centre of Lyon (CRCL).

Improving the survival of patients 

When I started my internship, doctors only had four or five drugs to administer to their patients. Since then, great progress has been made in the level and number of therapies available, which is also the case for the average survival in the face of cancer. Myelomas, lymphomas, breast and colorectal cancers in particular are better cared for. Treatment of lung cancer, which is usually difficult, has benefitted from marked improvements in certain biological subgroups identified by research. Also, two new molecules against melanomas have just become available, whereas we had practically nothing two years ago”. Jean-Pierre Bizzari, Vice-President of clinical research, Celgene, and President of Synergie Lyon Cancer.

New tools in the service of research 

Research now has powerful instruments for exploring the mechanisms leading to the occurrence of cancer. I have worked in the field of oncology for nearly 40 years and always heard that we were making progress, and that the advances would be transferred for clinical use. That was true, but progress made in understanding the cellular mechanisms associated with cancers has made even great strides recently. Although we have to overcome technical obstacles, the development of the first targeted therapies represents a tangible hope for improving the treatment of cancers over a timeframe of 10 years”. Gilles Thomas, Professor of Medical Genetics at the Université Lyon 1, former Director of the bioinformatics centre of Synergie Lyon Cancer.

Better global care 

Thanks to the actions linked to the Cancer Plan 2009-2013, the geographical disparities of patients’ access to care have started to decrease. Patients are given care earlier and so it is more efficient. It is also more humane, with in particular the establishment of cancer diagnosis disclosures and the improvement of palliative care. With targeted therapies and less invasive treatments like radiofrequency and cryotherapy, cancers are also cured more effectively while preserving the patients’ organisms”. Sylvie Négrier, General Manager of the Léon Bérard Centre (CLB) and its representative on the Management Board of Synergie Lyon Cancer.