The sharing and hope in the research. This is what helped Elisa in the most difficult moments: those in which you discover the disease – a high-grade glioma in the brain -, those in which you face it and learn to live with it.
Elisa is thirty years old; in 2017 she begins to suffer from a strong migraine with aura and after some tests she discovered the tumor mass. “The surgeons advise me against the operation – he says – because the tumor is located too deep and with surgery would be more risks than benefits. So I start the therapy in Humanitas with Dr. Matteo Simonelli and Dr. Elena Lorenzi (of the Medical Oncology Unit in Humanitas), both with radiotherapy and chemotherapy and I respond well”. The pains diminish, tiredness remains and “the desire to take back my life”.
“There are those who refuse the tumor and continue to live their lives pretending that it is nothing. I can’t – said Elisa, who works in the world of advertising -: I accepted it, I also told myself through the hips on social media. Now I am aware and positive”.
Sharing and commitment in the AYA project
In Humanitas Elisa discovered the AYA (Adolescents and Young Adults) project of the Humanitas Cancer Center, which dedicates a clinical and psycho-social path to so-called young adults (between 16 and 39 years of age). In fact, there are many questions that young patients ask themselves: if they can have a child after the tumor, if there is a way to overcome the mental blockade and anxiety that talking about the disease generates or if they will find a job.
“I immediately got involved in this project – explained Elisa – and I met many young people of my age who are facing the oncological path. It was fundamental because you understand that you are not alone and share with them doubts, questions, fears and even joys or hopes. Outside the project everyone tries to understand what happened to us but they can hardly really do it. When you share the same experience, for better or for worse, these people become points of reference. Real friendships are born”.
Research in Humanitas on gliomas
At Humanitas, a multidisciplinary team of neuro-oncologists consisting of neurosurgeons, radiotherapists, neuro-radiologists, anatomopathologists and neurophysiatrists – of which Dr. Matteo Simonelli and Dr. Elena Lorenzi are part of the Oncology Department – is responsible for the management of all diagnostic, therapeutic and care aspects of patients suffering from primary brain tumours.
On a weekly basis, the team meets to discuss and set up the diagnostic-therapeutic procedure for the most complex cases.
At present, Humanitas is involved in several experimental clinical studies focused on the use of new targeted molecular and immunotherapeutic drugs, whose safety and efficacy in different types of solid tumors, including gliomas, are to be studied.
In addition to clinical research, there is also a significant part of translational research carried out in collaboration with the ever-growing and expanding preclinical laboratories of Humanitas, aimed at identifying prognostic factors, predictions or new therapeutic targets.
Among these, some research on Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common brain tumor in adults that causes about 11 thousand deaths per year and has a survival rate of 5 years from diagnosis of less than 5%, treated with surgery, radiotherapy and temozolomide are the available therapies.
Researchers at the Laboratory of Pharmacology and Pathology of the Nervous System of Humanitas have also worked on a research project that studies the synthesis of a nanovector activated by metalloprotease, in order to improve its penetration into the nervous system and, specifically, into the cancer cell.
The study involves the use of a model of blood-brain barrier developed in the laboratory of Pharmacology and Pathology of the Nervous System of Humanitas to analyze the ability of the nanovector to reach the tumor and peripheral organs, pharmacokinetic properties and possible toxicity, local and systemic.
“To this day, there is no different treatment for me, but there are many ongoing studies on investigational drugs and it is not to be excluded that there is something that can make me return to my life,” concluded Elisa.