Professor Alberto Mantovani, an internationally renowned immunologist and scientific director of Humanitas, was interviewed at Zapping on Rai Radio Uno and, starting from the publication of his new book “Bersaglio mobile” published by Mondadori, spoke about the role of research and immunotherapy in the fight against cancer.
Prof. Mantovani first recounted what had led him to write this book: “I wanted to share one of the passions of my life, research; scientific research on cancer and immunology at the service of health and I also wanted to vaccinate readers against false news and false cures that cause tragedies that we still hear about today in the news, and finally I wanted to fulfill what I think is a moral duty of those who do science and medicine like me: to share their work with the public.
The false news about cancer is repeated over time, the false treatments then take root in the hope of patients (and we must be very respectful of this), the fact that sometimes we specialists do not communicate adequately and finally on the fact that the average scientific culture in our country is rather modest.
The frontier of immunotherapy
“In a patient with a tumor two things happened to his immune system: part of his defenses (which we can imagine as cops) passed to the enemy and behaves like corrupt cops, helping the tumor growth. Another part of the defenses is asleep.
When we studied the immune system, we discovered that it works like an extraordinary car, that it needs accelerators and brakes; in jargon we call these brakes check points and by removing them we can get the car started again. We have had very important results in this regard, for example in melanoma, and a significant proportion of patients with many cancers benefit from this therapy.
It is estimated, however, that only about a fifth of patients who are eligible for immunotherapy benefit from it and therefore the glass is still largely empty, we must continue to work. These are expensive therapies that pose a problem for the sustainability of our healthcare system: however, we would like patients to deal with the disease and not with the economic issue related to treatment. Identifying which patients will benefit from immunological therapies is an important step for a system that is sustainable,” specified Prof. Mantovani.