“Although [le cancer] is a very serious illness, we still have good news”assured Friday June 3 on franceinfo Professor Fabrice André, director of research at the Gustave-Roussy institute in Villejuif (Val-de-Marne), as the largest world congress dedicated to cancer opens in Chicago. “Today, we can say that thanks to prevention, a small number of cancers are probably on the way to being eradicated”he indicated.
Immunotherapy and more recently biotherapy make it possible to better treat cancer patients by stimulating their immune system. “Biotechnologists can build drugs” which will allow “either to reproduce or to activate the immune cell”. According to him, thanks to this new advance, “The range of possibilities is endless”.
franceinfo: Can we say that we treat more and more cancers?
Fabrice Andre: Although it is a very serious disease, we still have good news. First of all, concerning screening and prevention. We see for example that in Australia, they plan to eradicate cervical cancer through vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV). It is absolutely major. We are also making progress in the field of treatments that are coming with immunotherapy and more and more therapeutic biotechnologies, that is to say that researchers are building drugs, a bit like construction games.
Are cancers on the way out in certain countries?
Today, we can say that, thanks to prevention, a small number of cancers are probably on the way to being eradicated.
It took less than a year to find a vaccine against Covid-19. Will there ever be vaccines against all cancers?
We don’t like to say “all” but we think today, thanks to new technologies, that we can indeed move towards preventive cancer vaccines which will be more personalized for a part of the population.
Will it be through RNA technology?
At the very beginning, RNA technology is made for cancer vaccine. There have actually been clinical studies in which there are some reductions in tumor size. The difficulty with these vaccines is finding the right RNA to put in to generate an immune response.
Is the systematic screening of smokers and ex-smokers a hopeful avenue?
It is absolutely transformative. Large comparative clinical studies have been carried out, particularly in Europe, and have shown that this significantly reduces mortality from lung cancer, in the order of approximately 20 to 30%. But the challenge now is above all the implementation. We make discoveries, we validate them. Afterwards, they must be implemented at the scale of a territory.
After immunotherapy, which boosts the immune system so that it destroys cancer cells, we now speak of biotherapy. What is it exactly ?
First, a little croaking. There are three cancer immunotherapies. It healed hundreds of thousands of people a year. Two are from public research in France. When people give to foundations, it makes discoveries. The goal is to activate the immune system to destroy the cancer cell. There are drugs that already exist, these are called antibodies. This is what is produced naturally against infections. It is therefore diverted to improve the activation of the immune system.
There are also things that happen, like rebuilding cells for injectors to the patient. These cells will destroy the cancer. Then, biotechnologists can build drugs that will make it possible to reproduce the immune cell, or to activate this immune cell. In short, the field of possibilities is infinite when you start talking about construction, the synthesis of new molecules.