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Tumours: “better understanding has improved treatments”

3 episodes
  • 1
    Targeted therapies: new weapons against tumours
  • 2
    Cancer immunotherapies: how do they work?
  • 3
    Advances in physics: “new radiotherapies are on the horizon”
Épisode 1/3
Agnès Vernet, Science journalist
On October 21st, 2021
4 mins reading time
Philippe cassier
Philippe Cassier
Medical Oncologist at the Léon Bérard Centre

Key takeaways

  • Even though 382,000 new cases of cancer were recorded in France during 2018, the overall survival rate has improved thanks to earlier diagnosis and advances in treatment.
  • Until the 2000s, doctors were looking for molecules that destroyed cancer cells without always knowing how they worked, but now targeted treatments are being established in a more rational and systematic manner.
  • Tumours differ from one another so targeted therapies accompanied by effective diagnostic tools are used to check that the right target is indeed present in the patient.
  • New anti-cancer drugs are the result of this change in approach and these treatments can have spectacular effects – although tolerance can still be an issue.
Épisode 2/3
Agnès Vernet, Science journalist
On October 21st, 2021
3 mins reading time
Julien Husson
Julien Husson
Professor at École Polytechnique in the Hydrodynamics Laboratory (LadHyX *)

Key takeaways

  • Tumours weaken the immune response in patients and immunotherapies – drugs to ‘wake up’ the immune system – have proven effective.
  • Whilst these treatments are shown to work on the clinical level, their exact mechanism of action if not fully understood.
  • As such, biophysicist Julien Husson is trying to understand how immunotherapies block the immunosuppressive effect of tumours, using electron microscope analysis.
  • In future work, he hopes to use the findings to better understand the mechanism behind how T lymphocytes (immune cells) work.
Épisode 3/3
Alessandro Flacco, Associate professor at ENSTA (IP Paris)
On October 21st, 2021
3 mins reading time
Alessandro Flacco
Alessandro Flacco
Associate professor at ENSTA (IP Paris)

Key takeaways

  • Radiotherapy is used to destroy cancer cells as precisely as possible, without affecting the surrounding healthy cells.
  • Since the 1990s, doctors have been using proton therapies, and more recently, the use of electron beams in cancer treatment has been studied.
  • Recent findings showed that the toxicity of radiation is related to the duration of exposure; known as the ‘flash effect’, a short burst of radiation.
  • The shorter the time, the less healthy cells are affected thanks to less burning and less fibrosis.
  • This discovery has prompted scientists to re-explore sources of particles such as pulsed lasers that provide fast and very locally intense radiation – or by injecting nanoparticles.

Contributors

Agnès Vernet

Agnès Vernet

Science journalist

After her initial studies in molecular biology, Agnès Vernet trained as a science journalist at ESJ-Lille. For the past 14 years, she has been writing for various media, scientific magazines, professional titles and general press, in France and Switzerland. Since 1st February 2021, she is the elected President of the French association of science journalists (AJSPI).

Alessandro Flacco

Alessandro Flacco

Associate professor at ENSTA (IP Paris)

Alessandro Flacco works on the application of laser particle sources to biology and medicine. He has long worked on the physics of plasmas created by very high intensity lasers and on the acceleration of protons by laser-matter interaction. He is an associate professor at ENSTA Paris and a researcher at LOA (Laboratoire d'Optique Appliquée: joint research unit CNRS, ENSTA, École Polytechnique).