From 12 to 14 October Moscow hosted the festival All – Russia Science. The festival brings together the greatest minds in the world, including the Nobel Prize winners, with the aim of promoting science and attracting young people to research.
Professor Alberto Mantovani, scientific director of Humanitas, spoke to the audience – which last year gathered over 900,000 people – about cancer immunotherapy, a topic that today is at the center not only of scientific research but also of the news following the victory of the Nobel Prize for Medicine by American James P. Allison and the Japanese Tasuku Honjo. Their research and discoveries have laid the foundations for anticancer therapies that seek to exploit the aggressiveness of the immune system against diseased cells.
“In recent years we have witnessed the realization of a dream that lasted 100 years: the weapons of our immune system have been combined with more traditional therapies – surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, targeted drugs – in the fight against cancer,” explained the professor. “Antibodies, first of all, targeted against cancer cells, have changed the history of many cancers. The new frontier is to combine them with chemotherapy drugs, conveying them directly against cancer and reducing toxicity on healthy tissues.
Moreover, “from the awareness that the immune system does not attack the cancer as it should, because it is corrupted or asleep, therapeutic approaches aimed at removing the “molecular brakes” from our defense system that the tumor activates and are taking their first steps in clinical drugs and antibodies that block the “corrupt policemen”, components of the immune system that help cancer,” added Mantovani.
Great hopes, then, are related to cell therapies: “today we are able to take cells from the immune system, grow them, educate them and then reinfuse them in patients” and finally “we have learned to use vaccines against cancer: preventive ones – such as those against hepatitis B and liver cancers caused by this virus, and against HPV that causes cervical cancer are already a reality – those therapies are a hope that works around the world,” concluded Mantovani.