sábado, 2 de maio de 2015

Encontrando o ponto fraco

das células cancerosas

Entrevista com o Prof. Patrick Pauwels,

do Centro Médico da Universidade de Antuérpia

Prof. Patrick Pauwels, Head of the Department of Molecular Pathology at the Antwerp University Medical Center, Belgium, talks about the role of molecular pathology in cancer treatment and future perspectives in cancer therapy.

Prof. Pauwels, you are a molecular pathologist specialized in cancer research. Would «cancer profiler» be a good job description?

In a way, yes. Just as a criminal profiler analyzes a criminal’s personality traits to find the person, we try to characterize tumor cells and identify molecular pathways that may serve as therapeutic targets. We try to figure out what makes a cancer vulnerable to medication.

Has molecular pathology brought advances to cancer therapy?

In the past, surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy were our only weapons against cancer. Once cancer metastasizes, the effectiveness of these approaches is very limited. Now we have targeted therapies that specifically address the tumor cells’ weak spots and inhibit tumor growth with only few side-effects. By identifying treatment targets, molecular pathology provides rationale for new types of cancer drugs.

But targeted therapies are still only available for a few cancers…

True, only a small percentage of cancers can be treated with targeted drugs nowadays, but the number is increasing. Previously, targeted approaches were only available for leukemias and lymphomas, but now they are available for some breast, lung, colorectal, and skin cancers. These drugs can often halt disease progression, which is huge success in itself, but often the effectiveness is limited to a few months. Molecular research is trying to analyze the mechanisms of resistance.

What will cancer treatment look like in 2050?

Nobody can know for sure, but I think we will simply have more treatment options. I see great potential in the area of immunomodulation. This approach unravels how cancer cells hide from the body’s own immune response and enables lymphocytes, our natural killer cells, to recognize and destroy tumor cells. This is a very promising because it moves beyond slowing the disease progression in the direction actually curing cancer.

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