From the office to the lab and from the lab to the patient's bedside. This is how you could summarize the daily work at the Oncohealth Institute, of the Hospital Universitario Fundación Jiménez Díaz (Madrid). According to its director and oncologist Jesús García-Foncillas, the centre represents a new concept in the approach to cancer, aimed not only at its comprehensive treatment but also at early diagnostics and prevention. It has an experienced and multidisciplinary team of more than a hundred professionals and the latest technology. It also has an applied research division and collaborates with the best cancer centres in the world. The aim is to apply cutting-edge treatments and therapeutic strategies, such as Immuno-oncology - which uses the patient's own immune system to attack the cancer cells - always from an individualised perspective. "We look for treatments according to the patients' molecular profiles, because no two are the same", stresses García-Foncillas.
The arrival of new targeted biological therapies has improved treatments and the identification of patients who can benefit from them. When a person comes to Oncohealth in search of a cure, the first thing they do is a molecular study of their tumour, by means of massive DNA sequencing of the tumour. The director of the institute explains that "many of the new treatments are aimed at specific molecular alterations of the tumour cell itself; in this way, a much more targeted and personalised therapy is made for each cancer". On the other hand, this comprehensive centre invests a great deal of effort in the development of new molecular biomarkers related to the evolution of tumours. "Identifying new targets for drug development is part of our daily work. In this type of research we are one of the world's leading centres", says García-Foncillas.
One of the pillars of the institute is the integrated clinical trials unit, which is structured into a phase 1 unit and a phase 2 and 3 clinical trials unit. There are also laboratories that work with animal models and a translational research division. What does the latter consist of? To apply advances in basic research to new treatments or medical procedures adapted to each patient as soon as possible. This process requires a continuous flow of information between all the professionals involved, and one sentence sums it up well: "From the laboratory to the patient's bed". Oncohealth has an ideal base for this type of research: a tumour bank with more than 44,000 samples. The Phase 1 unit has treated more than three hundred patients since it opened in late 2013. It is the first of its kind to be opened in the public health system and is a benchmark in the Madrid region. According to García-Foncillas, its success lies in the fact that it offers innovative treatments with drugs that will not be marketed for five or ten years. But Oncohealth doesn't just investigate, the human factor is not neglected. As its director explains, "we have a palliative care unit so that the patient feels fully supported in the last stage of his or her illness when there are no more treatment options available". In addition, a team of psycho-oncologists accompanies all those affected in each of the phases of their illness.
Original by Marta Riesgo