This Thursday, the 25th of May, the European Week to Fight Cancer begins to highlight the importance of prevention, research and the need for psychosocial support for cancer patients.
Cancer is defined as a disease: it can appear anywhere in the body, regardless of gender or age, and cells can degenerate to the point of death unless detected and treated early. Today it continues to be a medical and scientific challenge, but also a social one.
Improving the diagnosis, advancing in its approach, discovering new targets or finding new treatments to treat cancer are some of the main challenges for the coming years. Challenges that become key to successfully addressing the future of this disease.
CAR-T treatments arrived in Spain almost five years ago, opening the door of hope to blood cancer patients. The results support the use of these treatments for patients who have so far had few medical procedures and a life expectancy of about six months.
The results of some of these treatments are changing the course of diseases such as diffuse lymphoma, where more than one in four patients is still alive more than five years after the infusion.
An increase in the number of centers to administer these treatments, as well as their extension to earlier lines and other diseases, such as mantle lymphoma, leukemia or myeloma, opens the door to the transformation of hemato-oncology.
Despite the laws in force and the anti-smoking campaign active throughout the world, there are still around 1.3 billion smokers, according to the UN and 8.8 million in Spain, according to the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC). Figures that make the end of tobacco, one of the main social challenges globally, since it continues to be the main cause of lung cancer and also in other 20 types, such as larynx, bone, bladder, pancreas or liver, also growing between 10 and 30. % probability of the patient having breast cancer. In fact, those who smoke are 15 to 30 times more likely to develop or die from lung cancer than those who do not.
In order to contribute to its release among the population, since the Health last February Todacitana, a drug less than a month, as it is based on cytisine, a plant alkaloid that manages to reduce nicotine dependence.
Although in the last two decades global tobacco consumption has decreased, reaching 32.7% of the world’s population in 2000 to 22.3% in 2020, the challenge continues with the implementation of new regulations, awareness campaigns and the development of drugs that are gradually being reduced. their consumption is estimated at 20.4% by WHO for 2025.
Breast cancer continues to be a challenge worldwide, especially in difficult diagnoses. This is a case of metastatic triple negative, very serious and lethal breast cancer. Only 12% of patients survive five years, compared to 28% of those with other types of metastatic cancer.
Historically, it is one of the few treatment options, until in December of last year the course of the disease in our country was changed by adding to the SNS sacituzumab govitecan, the first drug in history that makes the overall survival more than better. 70% of women with metastatic breast cancer are triple-negative, bringing unprecedented hope to patients.
Trastuzumab deruxtecan was also incorporated, a therapy indicated for patients with unresectable and/or metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer who received a prior anti-HER regimen. Although these two drugs are changing the course of two of the most feared cancers, the challenge to improve breast cancer figures is as a program of early detection, research and development of medical personality, as well as the approval of drugs for some patients for whom it carries every day.
It is the most common cancer in the population and the second leading cause of death from cancer after lung cancer. In the case of digestive inflammation, that which is best survives; but there are many challenges against the coming years, all of which aimed to reduce its incidence by avoiding controllable risk factors. Obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, alcohol or tobacco are some of them, in addition to the lack of awareness among society.
According to the “Study on the attitudes, knowledge and behavior of people between 50 and 69 regarding colon cancer screening”, despite the fact that 82% are aware of colorectal cancer screening programs, only 62.5% confirm the test. Some evidence that shows the need to educate people about the risk factors of the disease, the improvement of prevention and the importance of early diagnosis, for which it is necessary that all people at medium risk participate fully in these programs.
Pancreatic cancer survival remains a challenge in oncology. Known as the “silent killer”, this type of tumor is one of the largest in the world, with a five-year survival rate of 5% globally.
This figure is growing in Spain, according to SEOM data from 2023, saying that pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of 7%, with the lowest survival rate of all common tumors.
With more than 9,000 cases recognized every year in our country, the problem lies in the fact that its early detection is very complicated, when the signs appear in the progression of the disease and, if it cannot work, effective medical options. they are scarce. . In addition to this, a large number of risk factors can be found behind this tumor, such as tobacco, with increased and poor eating habits, diabetes, chronic pancreatitis and exposure to certain chemicals.
The challenge is therefore twofold in this cancer: on the one hand, its early diagnosis, on the other, treatments that are instantly better, although there are already innovative therapies in development, such as nanoparticles, biomarkers for targeted therapies, immunotherapy or virotherapy.
Prostate cancer is the second most common malignant tumor in Spain. About 10% of people will develop this tumor during their lifetime and, each year, more than 33,000 new cases are diagnosed in our country, according to the AECC Cancer Observatory. The same thing that shows prostate cancer is the third cause of mortality in Spain due to cancer in men, after lung and colorectal cancer.
Now the chief danger is, because we must work; in fact, 90% of cases are diagnosed in people over 65 years of age, so early detection is followed-up at an older age.
Although, in general terms, this type of cancer is potentially curable with local treatments, such as surgery or radiotherapy, the challenge lies in continuing to develop new curative therapies and in improving early detection, where periodic reviews, especially after the age of fifty. takes particular importance, it seems appropriate to carry out a periodic medical examination in which a digital rectal examination and a blood test are carried out, if there are signs of cancer.
Sanity of mind
The mind has been gaining recognition over the years. Although, until very recently, the taboo was a general subject for people, today it is still one of the essential questions that are part of the approach to any disease.
In cancer patients, when they receive a diagnosis, both themselves and those around them begin to experience a situation of extreme uncertainty and begin a painful journey, both emotionally and physically. For this reason, in addition to medical and scientific challenges, large cancer patient associations affirm the importance of psycho-oncological support to maintain mental health throughout the process, from diagnosis to the end of treatment.
In this same sense, the influence of a good mood on the outcome of cancer treatment began to be investigated. One of the challenges that people with cancer face is the associated stigma, which prompted the Government to announce recently its duty to immediately implement the “onological right to be forgotten” so that patients are not remembered for their medical history and this translated into any gender discrimination or significant.