Personalized medicine for all: The future of cancer treatment
Cancer treatment has come a long way, but there’s still a long road ahead. Despite the strides researchers have made in understanding the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that drive tumor growth and immune system evasion, there remain too many unmet needs. Many patients with rare cancers, for example, face poorer outcomes than patients with more common cancers.1 But why are they left behind?
The answer is simple: a lack of effective treatments and treatment guidelines, fewer clinical trials and less investment in drug development.2,3 Even in cancers that have effective, targeted treatments, there remain challenges to matching the right treatment combination and the best combination strategy to the right patient.4
Valeria Fantin, Global Head of Oncology Research at Sanofi
But Valeria Fantin, Global Head of Oncology Research at Sanofi, is determined to close the cancer care gap and push the boundaries of what’s possible. “Patients with cancer, especially those with advanced disease, have a limited number of shots on goal to manage their disease – and every shot is precious,” said Fantin. “It is critical to focus on personalized medicine, on treatment strategies tailored to each person’s specific cancer, instead of generalized strategies.”
Advances in technology, such as DNA and RNA sequencing, have enabled researchers to collect massive amounts of data and understand the mechanisms of tumorigenesis on a deeper level. With computational tools, like artificial intelligence and machine learning, the healthcare community is harnessing that data and generating insights to personalize care for more patients.
That’s why Valeria’s strategy focuses on investing in partnerships and technology to accelerate the drug discovery and development process. She’s working with leading biotech companies with cutting-edge technology platforms to develop differentiated therapeutics, as well as with AI and other computational tools to accelerate drug discovery and development. These partnerships are helping to integrate patient, disease and clinically relevant data earlier in drug discovery and to develop new cancer medicines tailored to specific patient groups more quickly and efficiently.
But building a future where personalized medicine is an option for everyone living with cancer will require a sustained commitment from and continued partnership between the companies turning cutting-edge science into medicines and the institutions running clinical trials.
“To continue making this a reality for patients will require more translational research, more clinical trials, and more collaboration, not just between industry and academia, but also with patients, who ultimately provide researchers with the data to inform our work,” Fantin said. “Every day counts for people living with cancer, and we must do all we can to develop more targeted therapies that can be part of more tailored treatment strategies for patients.”
- Sharifnia T, et al. Emerging Opportunities for Target Discovery in Rare Cancers. Cell Chem Biol. 2017 Sep 21; 24(9): 1075–1091.
- Blay J et al. The value of research collaborations and consortia in rare cancers. Lancet Oncol. 2016;17:e62–e69.
- Panageas KS. Clinical trial design for rare cancers: why a less conventional route may be required. Expert Rev Clin Pharmacol. 2015;8:661–663.
- Lopez JS and Banerji U. Combine and conquer: challenges for targeted therapy combinations in early phase trials. Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2017 Jan; 14(1): 57–66.