• Fri. Oct 22nd, 2021

Tumors, Tortora (Gemini): “Turnaround will come from vaccines, immunotherapy and Ai”


May 8, 2021

“Today we talk about mRna vaccines, which have become a reality against Covid-19 and are making a great contribution to the fight against the virus. But many do not know that they have their roots in studies carried out for years in oncology. It is a extraordinary discovery that comes from this research activity behind which there is so much work. And I believe that a turning point in the fight against cancer can come in the next few years, not months, precisely from the development of therapeutic vaccines, from ‘immunotherapy and artificial intelligence applied to diagnostics “. It is the future according to Giampaolo Tortora, director of the Oncology and Comprehensive Cancer Center of the Gemelli University Hospital in Rome, who at Adnkronos Salute traces the “most promising scenarios of the future”, recalling – on the eve of the Azalea research ‘Airc, which returns to the streets on Sunday 9 May – the importance of “never giving up on prevention”. “With mRna vaccines – underlines the expert – we see one of those typical situations in which something not immediately appreciated, as often happens with revolutionary studies, goes on thanks to the stubbornness and self-denial of the researchers. But the moment of recognition. for the important things arrives. And today the attention that Covid-19 has channeled on this technology I am sure it will give further impetus, in terms of research and results and also of investments “. In the world of oncology, different approaches are being tried to this type of technology: “The most feasible one with current knowledge aims to develop a therapeutic vaccine that targets different but transversal mutations, common to several tumors. We are not yet on the super-personalization of a vaccine aimed at a single alteration present only in that patient . I am part of a maxi consortium that has carried out the analysis of the whole cancer genome, a very important work published in ‘Nature’ as weeks before the Covid explosion, and I can say that these individual mutations have been looking for a long time and it is difficult to find them “. The way is open. “And in a later day we will probably also get to preventive vaccines”. Today, Tortora points out, “on this front only ‘indirect’ preventive vaccines are available, in the sense that they protect against viruses such as hepatitis B or the Papilloma virus , and by preventing infection they also prevent the risk of developing some tumors “. At this moment, however,” the field that is most in development is that of immunotherapy and we are only at the beginning, although we are already seeing extraordinary results for many types of cancer. The most likely application in the immediate future is that of the combination of several immunotherapies, possibly even with a vaccine. It is on melanoma that we are focusing in particular for this “double attack” approach that also involves vaccines These studies, the conjunction we have also seen with Covid-19, “show how interdisciplinarity has always been the food of science. With a flight not even too much po pindaric we can see the analogy with Crispr-Cas9. This is a system at the origin of a kind of elementary immunity. Then it turned out that with this system it is possible to cut and paste the DNA. Born in chemical laboratories (it was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to two women), he opened crazy paths for research in the medical and even oncological fields “. Now history repeats itself and so does immunotherapy, which” was a chimera for years and today it is giving results making a huge leap forward, even the development of anti-cancer vaccines is one of the most fascinating fields in which oncology has great expectations “, reflects Tortora.” There is a whole world behind it, which still we only know part of it and it is able to mark a turning point. There is inevitably talk of years, for the demonstration that that approach is safe and effective. How many years is not easy to say, but I am confident that clinical trials can also be accelerated with the introduction of methods to detect signs of efficacy in advance “, he observes. And then there is the chapter on diagnostics,” at the molecular level but not only. We – says Tortora – are conducting studies with radiologists on the application of artificial intelligence to patterns of images that could conceal, if analyzed in depth, down to the individual pixels, allowing us to associate a certain morphological alteration with a molecular alteration. So we talk about making a diagnosis using artificial intelligence applied to an image that the human eye cannot decipher. It is something that is coupled with molecular diagnostics, to anticipate the diagnosis or discovery of a relapse. Finally, we must not forget the liquid biopsy that takes a simple blood sample instead of tissue “.” These are all studies that exploit the potential of big data and show the importance of figures, whose presence is now consolidated and indispensable in our laboratories : that of bioinformatics. Personally looking forward, I hope to be able to see this future whose promise we now perceive. But I’m sure so, “he concludes.