Recently, he won yet another research award. During his visit to the University of Trento to receive the prestigious Pezcoller 2019 award, Prof. Alberto Mantovani, Humanitas scientific director, stated the medical research on cancer in Italy is at levels of excellence in the world. And while it is true that in those areas where the research on treatment is best done, it is confirmed by the fact that the life expectancy of cancer patients in Italy is the highest in Europe. “In the magazine Lancet Oncology has been published a ranking of the contribution, normalized, of different countries to cancer research – said the professor -: Italy is at second place after the United Kingdom”.
Despite the budget, “miraculous” result
“In a country that spends half of its competitors on research,” said the scientific director of Humanitas, “the results obtained are miraculous. An extraordinary Italian miracle which, according to Prof. Mantovani, pioneer of immunotherapy as a new frontier against cancer, is “due to the expertise in the field but also to the great dedication of the operators and health structures”. In short, it is also due to the much-vaunted National Health System, which has limits and problems of sustenance, but which still holds its own and in which those who have cancer do not have to pay for treatment.
The new frontier of immunotherapy
Among the new frontiers of anti-cancer treatments stands out immunotherapy that, compared to traditional therapies (such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy) offers the advantage of drastically lowering side effects, although it is not without risks. However, to date, out of 10 patients to whom this therapy can be applied, only 2 or 3 can benefit from it.
“Immunotherapy is a new continent – said the professor -. As a beginner mountaineer I will use this metaphor: it is as if we were looking out onto a peak and could see an extraordinary panorama”. In its current use, immunotherapy works by removing the brakes on the immune system inhibitors, therefore leaving it free to act against the tumor, either to trigger adverse reactions to the body or autoimmune reactions. A risk that, however, according to the professor, is worth taking.
“The progress in immunology and the identification of the elements that make up our great immunological orchestra allow us today to better treat autoimmune diseases – added the professor -. We have new weapons to control what is one of the problems associated with immunological therapies”.
A public and private system promotes quality and research
“A lot of data, but above all the experience of patients, have shown that when there is a microenvironment in which research is carried out, better care is taken”, said Mantovani, who clearly expressed himself with regard to the public or private diatribe: “A mixed system has many more advantages than a purely public system and an exclusively private one – said the professor -. In summary, I believe that we need a private system at the service of the public”.