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Fighting cancer: the way forward lies with innovation (Guest blog)

Cancer is arguably one of the major healthcare challenges which modern societies have faced for decades. According to recent estimates, the number of people diagnosed with cancer by 2040 in Europe[1] is expected to increase by a staggering 21% compared to 2020[2]. Not only will this impact the lives of patients and their families. It will affect healthcare systems, economies, and societies overall. Thus, it is vitally important that we foster an environment that encourages innovation to drive scientific progress.

The world has come to appreciate the value of scientific innovation in discovering a COVID-19 vaccine in a matter of months. This was also the result of decades of innovative research and a deep understanding around vaccines and viruses that included victories and setbacks along the way. Similarly, the complexity of cancer has taken twenty years of small steps forward combined with major discoveries to create meaningful advances for patients we see today.

When it comes to progress in cancer treatment, the discovery of immunotherapy, which harnesses the patient’s own immune system to treat cancer, can be considered as a breakthrough milestone in the field of oncology research[3]. As scientific progress continues, the shift towards precision medicine is paving the way towards more targeted approaches such as CAR T cell therapy, that captures the specific genetic information of each cancer patient, with the potential to make a major difference in the paradigm of cancer care.  

Knowing patients are waiting for life-saving therapies is what drives us at Bristol Myers Squibb. For more than 50 years, we have been committed to developing new and innovative medicines for patients with cancer. Through deep scientific expertise, cutting-edge capabilities, and discovery platforms we are exploring ways to target the cancer directly, the environment it lives in and amplifying the body’s ability to fight the disease.

We believe in the power of science and that innovation is the path forward in the fight against cancer. Looking at the future, we want to excel in our role in shifting the paradigm of cancer care through the discovery, research and development of novel science and treatment approaches for patients. It is this mindset that has led us over the last several decades to contribute improving how cancer is treated through a focus on innovation.

Through growing operations, investments and partnerships in Europe, Bristol Myers Squibb is charting new paths in the design and discovery of healthcare solutions, combining medical innovation, data and technology. We work with leading institutions to develop pioneering science platforms in cancer research and have over 60 scientific partnerships and 250 ongoing research projects that allow us to accelerate advances in therapy and care designed with patients and healthcare systems expectations in mind.

Partnership is a central pillar to advancing science for BMS, collaborating across the healthcare landscape to help increase the speed and efficiency of our research. We also strive to partner with policymakers in the fight against cancer in Europe. If we want to succeed in pushing the boundaries of scientific innovation, a solid ecosystem supported by a policy framework that incentivises and rewards innovation is critical, with strong IP protection and a world class and future-proofing science-based regulatory system.

The European Commission has already made positive steps in recognising cancer as key healthcare priority through its Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. This is critical given the 21% increase in cancer rates expected by 2040. In the coming months, the revision of the general pharmaceutical legislation provides a tremendous opportunity to nurture the growth of the pharmaceutical research ecosystem in Europe. One could not repeat it more, an environment that encourages innovation is key to scientific progress. This is the way forward. Let’s make sure that today’s research can be another step towards tomorrow’s hope for a cure.  

[1] EU and EFTA countries

[2] European Cancer Information System, Data explorer | ECIS (europa.eu), March 2022

[3] The history and advances in cancer immunotherapy: understanding the characteristics of tumor-infiltrating immune cells and their therapeutic implications, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41423-020-0488-6, 807–821 

Emmanuel Chantelot

Emmanuel Chantelot is VP and Head of International Policy & Government Affairs at Bristol Myers Squibb.
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