Madrid (EFE).- The scientist Elena Garralda runs one of the most important oncology research units in Spain, focused on some of the most promising lines of research, and is convinced, albeit cautiously, that cell therapies are going to be -numerous trials are already demonstrating it- one of the fundamental pillars in the fight against cancer in the coming years.
Elena Garralda directs the Early Clinical Drug Development Group of the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology and the Cancer Molecular Therapy Research Unit (UITM-CaixaResearch), which has joined the world’s largest hospitals capable of developing their own medicines of advanced therapy to administer to patients.
They have done so by taking advantage of the capabilities of the immune system to fight cancer and using a pioneering technique -solid tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (SIL)-; it is about penetrating the tumor with lymphocytes (immune cells found mainly in the blood) previously manipulated and reactivated in the laboratory so that they “learn” to recognize tumor cells and destroy them.
Immunotherapy, fundamental against cancer
The researcher has taken part in Madrid in a conference on cell therapies and the new opportunities they offer through genetic engineering or immunotherapy, organized by the Ramón Areces Foundation and Springer Nature, which have brought together experts from several countries to present some of the most recent applications of cell therapy to combat cancer and the prospects that this technology may also contribute to the treatment of diseases that are currently incurable.
“Immunotherapy is already one of the fundamental pillars in the treatment of cancer,” said Elena Garralda, in an interview with EFE, and specified that within this area cell therapy is already positioned as one of the “most promising” drugs and attractive” for the effectiveness that it is demonstrating in long-term cures.
Out of caution, the researcher insists that it is too soon to confirm whether cell therapies will be the solution to cancer, but not to affirm that in the coming years they will be one of the pillars on which many of the treatments will be based. against this disease.
Cancer is “complex, heterogeneous and dynamic” and to think that the solution will come from a single solution is also “a utopia”, according to Elena Garralda, and in this sense she specifies that the solutions will combine numerous factors and treatments and will involve multidisciplinary teams involved in many areas of science and technology (such as the combination of drugs and therapies, genetic engineering, bioinformatics, artificial intelligence or big data).
A growing interest among the scientific community, pharmaceutical companies and institutions
Although cell therapies have been known and applied since the 1980s, some three hundred research projects are currently advancing around the world in very advanced trial phases and are already yielding very promising results and long-term cures in various types of tumors; “In the next 10 years we are going to see incredible progress”, Elena Garralda asserted.
“The ultimate goal is for the treatments to reach the clinic as soon as possible and for patients to live longer and better”, but he has stressed the importance of meeting all the deadlines and the different phases of trials to ensure that a drug is safe and effective. , and has explained that true “milestones” have just been recorded with the so-called “tumor-infiltrating leukocytes” (TIL) in patients with melanoma.
And it appreciates the growing interest of the pharmaceutical industry and numerous institutions and organizations in this field and the investments that are being directed at it, such as the fact that the pandemic has aroused a renewed interest in science and research, but has had an impact in that they are very complex therapies that require very high investments and, above all, that these be maintained over time.
Research focuses a large part of its efforts on increasingly personalized and precision medicine, and in this sense, Elena Garralda places cell therapies as a “high-level” medicine, since it deals in most cases with cells of the patient himself genetically manipulated “to provide them with the weapons they need to kill the tumor.”