Thursday February 4th is World Cancer Day which, mark a global fight that has become a priority for the medical community. Every year, around 14 million cases of cancer are diagnosed worldwide, resulting in more than 8 million deaths. In France alone, cancer is the leading cause of mortality amongst men, and the second most prevalent cause of death amongst women. New treatment options are needed, hence and Sanofi has made the decision to focus a significant part of its research on immuno-oncology, which represents a breakthrough in cancer treatment due to, its ability to help the body’s own immune systems fight cancerous cells.
The major advances made in recent years give hope to patients
The principle of immuno-oncology, -which combines oncology-, (the study and treatment of cancer), and immunology, (the study and treatment of the immune system), has been known to medical researchers for many years. However, its practical application thanks to the development of active molecules only began at the start of the current decade. The first cancers to be effectively targeted were prostate cancer and melanoma (cancer of the skin and mucous membranes).
What actually is immuno-oncology? Immuno-oncology holds the promise of treating certain forms of cancer by leveraging the power of the human immune system. Our immune systems operate as a natural defense mechanism to eliminate foreign substances, cells and tissues that attack our bodies. But some cancer cells escape the destructive abilities of the white cells and T-cell lymphocytes that form part of this system. Immuno-oncology molecules are designed to help them identify cancer cells and destroy them.
Their effectiveness in restoring the power of the immune system still varies considerably depending on patient response, the type of cancer targeted and how advanced it is. This is why researchers are now taking such a close interest in developing a diversity of approaches, including combined molecules, which target different immune system cells to deliver up to ten times the effect, and immune checkpoint inhibitors. Cancer cells can sometimes develop strategies to evade the immune system by blocking what are called checkpoints, whose role is to prevent the immune system from attacking the body’s own cells. The concept developed by medical research involves producing molecules that can deactivate – inhibit – these checkpoints to reveal the presence of cancer cells to the immune system.
Sanofi is committed to immuno-oncology research
Immuno-oncology is a fast-growing area of research that requires significant investment. Sanofi has resolved to rise to the challenge and contribute to bringing new treatment options for patients who need them. As a result, 2015 saw a series of new research collaborations: Sanofi partnered with the world’s greatest minds, which will help deliver the best and most innovative solutions for patients. . These partnerships have included:
- Collaboration with Evotec and Apeiron Biologics to identify completely new molecules as the basis for developing new-generation therapies.
- Collaboration with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals to accelerate the development of cancer antibodies.
- Collaboration with BioNTech to discover and develop up to five cancer immunotherapies
- In France only, collaboration with the Institut Curie through the creation of the industrial chair IMOCA, focus on research in immuno-oncology and discovery of new therapies against cancer
Sanofi’s open innovation mindset continues in 2016 between Sanofi and biotech companies such as Warp Drive Bio on the development of new cancer treatment agents.
These projects will hopefully have positive outcomes. A recent study published by University College London indicated that by 2050, less people under the age of 80 will die of cancer.
By Sanofi Le Hub