From the 8 to the 11th of September, we attended the European Society of Medical Oncology Congress (ESMO 17), held in Madrid (Spain). It is one of the main meeting points for cancer researchers worldwide together with ASCO. More than 23,000 oncologists gathered at ESMO this year. A number of the studies presented at the conference will change clinical practice for some cancers. 

Increasing hope in immunotherapy

Immunotherapy - treatments that stimulate the immune system to attack tumour cells - has been featured in a number of studies. We have also seen new drug combinations that have been proved effective in significantly extending life expectancy of stage III lung cancer patients. The advantage here is that these drugs were already approved in several countries, so patients can benefit from this new therapeutic approach from today.

A great number of studies show how our deeper understanding of the biology of cancer and new profiliing techniques for analyzing tumors are personalizing our cancer's approach. Every patient should have a specific treatment depending on the molecular, genetic and hormonal characteristics of his or her tumour. Cancer treatment has entered in the era of Precision Medicine.

In addition to lung cancer, other promising studies were presented in breast cancer and melanoma. 

However, immunotherapy is not a silver bullet. It only works on a relatively small percentage of patients –around 30%- and in some cancer more than others (melanoma, lung, bladder…). Much more research is necessary for this therapeutic approach to be successful more widely. At ESMO we recorded interviews with top specialists talking about immunotherapy, targeted therapies and how to get involved in order to receive the best treatment. Stay tuned!

Treatment is not everything

Oncologists at the conference also stressed the importance of prevention: "40% of cancers are preventable," said Professor Josep Tabernero, Head of Clinical Oncology at Hospital Vall d'Hebron (Barcelona, Spain) and ESMO President-Elect. "Oncology is not only about medicines. We should emphasise lifestyle changes that would reduce the incidence of cancer;  quit smoking, reduce alcohol intake, eat a balanced diet low in red meat, exercise and avoid exposure to substances that have been shown to be carcinogenic."

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