To develop new medicines for patients affected by cancer is one of our top priorities. We are heavily  investing in new technologies and treatments for this enormous unmet need with a commitment to completely transform our oncology portfolio over the next five years. On World Cancer Day, February 4, we’ll tell you why this is such an important direction to take.

Despite scientific progress, cancer today is the second leading cause of death worldwide. In 2018 alone, there were 18.1 million new cases of cancer and 9.6 million deaths, higher than the total number of deaths from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined1, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), supported by the World Health Organization (WHO).

In men, the most common cancers are prostate, lung and colorectal cancer, while in women, breast cancer is the most common. It has also been found that cancers in children have increased 13% over the last 20 years2.

Around 70% of deaths from cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries, with half of new cases and more than half of global cancer deaths in 2018 occurring in Asia, mainly in China, in part because this region accounts for nearly 60% of the world's population3. Other reasons include population growth, aging and increased frequency of risk factors such as smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and an unbalanced diet4.

According to the WHO, the number of new cancer cases and deaths related to this disease is expected to double in the next 20 years with one in five men and one in six women worldwide developing the disease during their lifetime. Between 30-50% of cancers could be avoided by adopting a healthy lifestyle, but the battle against cancer is far from over and new treatment options are needed to help fight the disease.

Sanofi is determined to find better solutions for patients

We battle cancer through multiple research approaches. Using cutting-edge science in immuno-oncology and molecular oncology, we leverage a variety of technology platforms to pursue innovative therapies for patients. What makes cancer so complex is that it is not an external aggressor.“Cancer is us, when our own cells start growing out of control, " said Joanne Lager, Head of Oncology Development at Sanofi. “So, unlike an infection, where you can find something that's different between the infection and the host, the cancer is part of the host.”

With advances in understanding the mechanisms of cancer, researchers are exploring new ways to treat cancer by combining different therapies and focusing on a more individual level, including mobilizing the body's own immune system to combat the complex dangers that each tumor presents. “We now have a deep understanding of the biology of tumor cells,” said Laurent Debussche, Head of Sanofi’s Molecular Oncology Research Therapeutic Area, who noted that new technologies are allowing scientists to analyze “massive” amounts of genetic data about cancer.

Sanofi researchers focus in particular on the development of drugs that can mobilize the immune system in different ways. These explorations offer exciting research opportunities for scientists. 

In addition to helping patients through science, we also work to increase access to healthcare for children in developing countries through the My Child Matters program

Launched in 2005 by the Sanofi Espoir Foundation, the program addresses the challenges of caring for children with cancer in countries or regions with limited resources. In collaboration with government authorities and NGOs in 10 countries, it provides access to cancer care, including diagnosis, treatment and follow-up services. The program's actions have resulted in an increase in median survival of 5.1% and in saving the lives of more than 1,300 children a year. “We set out 12 years ago to act as a catalyst for improving access to cancer treatments for children in low- and middle-income countries. We now have evidence that, together with our partners, our efforts have had a huge impact on the lives and survival rates for these children,” explains Anne Gagnepain-Lacheteau, Director of My Child Matters.