Revolutionary advances in cancer detection and treatment were discussed by panelists at the Milenio Forum on cancer last week, where the talk centered around the technologies being developed for detection and treatment of the disease, stressing that they should be used intelligently.
New techniques discussed included searching for proteins in blood, analyzing spit, and using silver particles in nanotechnology. Other advances discussed were the use of microRNAs to detect cancer in blood samples. “We aim to turn cancer treatment into preventive treatment, not reactive,” said Jorge Soto, CTO of Miroculus, whose primary focus is early detection of stomach cancer, the second deadliest cancer in Mexico.
On the topic of treatment methods, immunology was discussed. “Only 8 percent of cancer drugs are immunological, but in ten years 60 percent will be,” stressed Pedro Lucero, oncologist and immunology researcher at the Sonora Cancer Research Center. Dr. Mariana Chávez, Adjoining Professor at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center spoke of her work in treating breast cancer patients in the US. “We are not limited by technology but by biological knowledge,” added Horacio Astudillo, founder of Nanopharmacia Diagnostica.
Many of the panelists work abroad for reasons ranging from easier access to professors, research labs and materials to financing. Some planned to improve their knowledge and skills abroad then return to Mexico, bringing their gathered expertise. On the contrary Astudillo, who works in Mexico, spoke of his pride at being the only Mexican company to attend the World Cancer Forum and how it encouraged him to continue the fight against cancer. He returned to Mexico after studying abroad and believes that Mexico is a platform from which companies can expand globally.
Questions from the audience included cancer survivors and family members of the recently diagnosed asking how they can be assured their family members will not suffer the same illness and spoke of the fear of recurrence, wishing for technological advances such as cancer testing with a drop of blood to be implemented as quickly as possible. The panel agreed with the difficulty and harshness cancer places on family members. In addition, Lucero spoke of the uncertainty of remission, as some cancers can return up to 15-20 years after a person is declared cancer free. They lamented the recent public sector budget cuts, as cancer hits people from all walks of life and public sector funding is key for diffusing healthcare to lower income segments of the population. They spoke of the need to improve access and get cheaper ways of monitoring cancer and issuing these to the population.
“We hope cancer will soon only be a sign of the zodiac,” concluded Astudillo. The panel was moderated by Tomás Sarmiento, Editorial Manager of Mexico Health Review at Mexico Business Publishing.