The trenches of cancer

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It is a disease as old as the first civilizations we know. We find the earliest references of cancer in fossil bones of mummies of Ancient Egypt or even in some from different eras of prehistory. But our knowledge and perception of it has changed a lot since then.

In the past, cancer was considered a unique disease that included ulcerous lesions, a ruthless and invincible “curse” that could appear in almost any part of our body in an inexplicable way. Over the years, this “curse” continues to be important as the incidence in the population has increased, 1 in 3 Spaniards will develop some type of cancer throughout their life, but years of research have allowed us to break it down and move forward much in his knowledge and turning that one great battle trench into more specific fronts.

Although the incidence continues to increase, more and more patients are cured or survive more. Today we are able to distinguish up to 200 different types of cancer and, moreover, clinical practice is tending towards personalized and precision medicine, more accessible to all patients. The evolution of techniques such as mass sequencing helps us to better classify tumors, to differentiate the alterations that push them to proliferate and to direct therapies more precisely towards the alterations of malignant cells, since a tumor can have thousands of tumors. mutations and other alterations, but not all are important.

The arrival, for example, of the liquid biopsy, a new technique, fast and efficient in the determination of tumor mutations, has been a breakthrough in the fight against cancer. It is based on the analysis of mutations in the tumor DNA detected in the blood and with it some of the problems presented by the traditional biopsy are overcome. The good results obtained so far in different studies have meant that this technology is already used in reference medical centers such as the Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology.

The evolution of antitumor treatments is equally impressive. Immunotherapy, whose efficacy has already been demonstrated for some tumors such as melanoma, kidney and lung cancer, some subtypes of colorectal, breast, bladder tumors … is based on reactivating the immune system of the cancer patient to fight against cancer cells, that is, try to boost the body's ability to search and destroy them with the use of antibodies and thus open the door to new therapeutic options and strategies.

Despite the great advances, there is still a long way to go in the fight against cancer. Current oncological research should continue to be developed as closely as possible to patients, following a translational strategy, with the purpose of expressing each result in a direct benefit for patients. The close collaboration of different medicine specialists integrating multidisciplinary work teams to address the disease from different perspectives brings great advantages to this long-distance career. We have never been in a situation like the current one, with the knowledge of the biological bases and the existing medical advances, to fight against this devastating disease. Without a doubt, little by little, but we are certainly winning this war.

As a great mountaineer, Josep Tabernero knows very well that reaching the top requires passion, effort, persistence and precision in equal parts. For more than 30 years he has applied large doses of these qualities in his work.


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