Summer School on Advances in Cancer Therapy
Cancer is a major public health problem in Africa. Nevertheless the advances made in the treatment of these range of diseases over the past decade are obvious and the emergence of targeted therapies has changed the evolution of some cancers, known to have a poor prognosis. These therapies have a very high cost which makes them out of reach of the majority of patients in developing countries.
There are typically three main types of cancer treatment through surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The latter is undoubtedly saving lives but at the cost of significant toxicity. The risk of toxicity associated with chemotherapy must therefore be weighed against the risk of cancer progression due to the discontinuation of systemic therapy. Thanks to precision medicine, a revolution is in progress. Targeted therapies are thus currently carried out and help understanding the mechanisms of cancer-cell function.
Targeted therapy uses a "selective" drug that attacks cancer cells by spotting a specific target. This target can be a receptor, a gene or a protein, and the targeted action must intervene at a precise stage of the development of the tumor cell, saving as much as possible the healthy cells. Targeted therapy is mainly involved in signal transduction pathways, which controls cell multiplication. The so-called tyrosine kinase pathway is the best known up to date. This pathway can be blocked by monoclonal antibodies (Mab) or enzymatic inhibitors (inib).
By acting on specific receptors, these drugs can block the growth of cancer cells: this is the case of trastuzumab/Herceptin®, pertuzumab/Omnitarg or lapatinib/Tykerb©; they can inhibit the formation of new vessels (angiogenesis), by preventing the tumor from inducing its own vascularization and growth (these anti-angiogenic compounds include bevacizumab / Avastin or sunitinib / Sutent); or they can stimulate the immune system of the patient against cancer cells (these so-called vaccine therapies are being developed against breast, prostate and kidney cancers).
Also should be mentioned the recently approved immunotherapy treatment of non-small-cell metastatic bronchial-cell cancers by pembrolizumab (keytruda, MSD); this kind of treatment was already approved in 2014 against melanoma and other kinds of lung cancers.
Targeted therapy can also control cancer-cell death, enhancing apoptosis or the natural death of the cell. Some products are being developed for the treatment of cancers of the upper aero-digestive tract (head and neck).
These are examples of targeted therapies, being tried and used up to date and which have significantly improved the treatment of cancers, on which we will focus during the three-day Summer School, organized by the Hassan II Academy of Science and Technology Life Sciences and Biotechnology section, in close cooperation with the Al Akhawayn University (Ifrane, Morocco).
The program will also focus the discussions on what is occurring in Morocco and Africa, where cancers are a major public-health problem, as well as on how to make the new therapies available to the patients.
The participants in the summer school will include, in addition to renown experts in the area from Morocco, Africa and other countries, about 15 young researchers (including two from Africa) and some 20-25 senior researchers from various Moroccan institution.