Supporting the fight against cancer is one of the four pillars of the Candriam Institute for Sustainable Development. This includes supporting foundations focusing on cancer prevention and treatment through cutting edge research.
The Fondazione IRCCS Instituto Nazionale dei Tumori, the National Cancer Institute Foundation (INT) in Milan, is Italy’s first comprehensive cancer center, conducting research and clinical trials on tumors and their pathogenesis, which will hopefully lead to new treatments for all types of cancer. It also provides diagnosis and treatment for patients—including a dedicated oncology unit for children, adolescents and young adults. And, with cancer rates on the rise globally, cancer prevention and awareness is also a core part of the IRCCS’ work.
Professor Giancarlo Pruneri, Head, Department of Pathology, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Milan and Full Professor of Pathology, University of Milan, School of Medicine, discusses the IRCCS’ work and how the support of organizations like Candriam ensures vital research can continue moving forward.
The IRCCS focuses on a number of Innovative therapies including immunotherapy and herapy based on gene sequencing, with opportunities for patients to participate in early-stage clinical trials. It currently has around 800 active clinical trials, of which 40% are academic, with an enrolment of around 25,000 cases per year, and also collaborates on innovative research projects with other cancer centers globally.
While the IRCCS receives an essential support from the government, this funding cannot cover all costs associated with pre-clinical, translational and clinical research, which is why it relies on external support from grants, corporations and other businesses as well as private donations. “We want to be able to keep extending the services we provide while continuing our ground-breaking research,” explains Professor Pruneri. “We also want to earmark funding for hiring very smart and talented young people and getting them on to our team. But all of these goals cannot be accomplished without the support of organizations like Candriam.”We want to be able to keep extending the services we provide while continuing our ground-breaking research,” explains Professor Pruneri. “We also want to earmark funding for hiring very smart and talented young people and getting them on to our team. But all of these goals cannot be accomplished without the support of organizations like Candriam.
To facilitate its work, the IRCCS makes use of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, which can help reduce the amount of time and effort needed to sift through thousands of research data points and techniques such as data mining to more readily crystallize for researchers the relationship between new drugs and their effects on patients.
A particularly promising treatment for the future that Professor Pruneri notes is liquid biopsy—a test done on a sample of blood to look for cancer cells from a tumor that are circulating in the blood or for pieces of DNA from tumor cells that are in the blood. A liquid biopsy may be used to help find cancer at an earlier stage and pinpoint with greater accuracy than traditional biopsies the genomic profile of multiple cancerous deposits. It may also be used to help plan treatment or to find out how well treatment is working or if cancer has come back. Being able to take multiple samples of blood over time has the potential to help doctors understand what kind of molecular changes are taking place in a tumor. “I have high hopes that in five years’ time, this procedure could be a game changer for cancer diagnosis and treatment,” says Professor Pruneri.
Looking ahead to the future, Professor Pruneri is eyeing opportunities to work with biotech firms on areas such as gene sequencing. “This would be a good fit for us,” he explains “so it’s definitely a step that we’d like to take forward.”