The aim is to give this kind of study, fundamental to increasing a patient’s treatment options, relevance within the center.
The way the word ‘cancer’ is perceived has changed radically in recent years, mainly due to the fact that the implications of being diagnosed with cancer has nothing to do with what it was ten years ago, thanks above all, to the research and awareness of the disease celebrated on World Cancer Day, next February 4. “These are diseases in which history is being rewritten”, says Dr. Antonio Gonzalez Martin, head of the Medical Oncology Service at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid, who also explains why these advances have come about – the participation of patients in clinical trials.
With the aim of reinforcing research at the center, MD Anderson Madrid will group all phase I clinical trials at the center within a single unit to lend them greater visibility and presence. “Although we are currently running a series of high-level clinical trials and we are already developing phase I trials, this is a further step in the structure, organization and commitment of the institution to the patients”, states Dr. Gonzalez Martin.
In his opinion, to begin research with molecules from the initial phases and to discover into which treatment scenarios they best fit is what really increases the patients’ chances of a cure, giving them greater treatment options. Indeed, there is data in scientific literature showing that patients taking part in clinical trials are the patients with higher survival rates.
The center currently has six phase I clinical trials underway, of which Dr. Gonzalez Martin points mainly to a molecule being investigated that “may be very important in treating ovarian cancer”. He is referring to an antibody that responds to folate receptors and is bound to a chemotherapy agent, meaning chemotherapy can be delivered inside the cell. “It’s like TDM-1 in breast cancer, which carries a cytotoxic agent bound to the biological trastuzumab, except for ovarian cancer”, explains the specialist with excitement.
Dr. Gonzalez Martin also speaks of the study of an immunotherapy agent, an anti-PD-1, which may be effective in a variety of tumors, like, for instance, lung cancer or basal cell carcinoma. In addition, MD Anderson Madrid has just launched a study of a cohort of patients with cervical cancer, “patients who normally have few treatment options”, he said.
In total, the unit is currently running two ovarian cancer studies, one on breast cancer, two on hematology and one final study, the one on the immunotherapy agent, which may be effective on various tumor types. Although most clinical trials at MD Anderson Madrid focus on breast cancer and gynecologic cancer, the idea behind the unit is to “extend the scope of the trials and that all areas reach the same level”.
Challenges for the future
In the interest of maintaining quality research at the center, MD Anderson Madrid will maintain the work groups already working with other hospitals for the new unit, with whom they share information on different clinical cases to achieve clinical information based on truth for cancer patients. Along these lines of collaboration with other centers, Dr. Gonzalez Martin emphasizes the opportunities for collaboration with their counterpart in Houston.
In short, clinical research is a complex task in which patients are indispensible in that, as the doctor explains, “the altruism involved in participating in clinical trials is what makes future changes in the standard treatment of determined pathologies possible”. This has already happened with tumors like melanoma, where immunotherapy is administered as the first line treatment thanks to the good results obtained in clinical trials with patients.