Research strategies to better diagnose and treat cancer have evolved greatly during the past decade. While surgery and radiation therapy remain major providers of cure, hopes for better cure rely mainly on systemic treatments. While cytotoxic drugs remain the backbone of systemic treatment and have already allowed for major steps forward, their benefits remain limited because of a narrow therapeutic index, significant toxicities and rapidly acquired resistance. Indeed, recent major improvements came out from the development of targeted therapies. However, at the clinical development level, many promising agents failed to demonstrate benefit in cancer patients, often because of an insufficient understanding of the specific signalling pathways which drive tumour growth of a specific cancer. Quite often, this led to proposal of drugs without previous selection of patients according to the appropriate phenotype / signature that justifies the targeted therapy proposal.
Our belief, which supports our research unit, is that understanding of signalling pathways comes first and is the necessary condition for further improvements in cancer treatment. To make this research efficient, we consider that the precise knowledge of a pathway needs to be understood in the specific context of each cancer type.
Furthermore, we consider that, to perform competitive research in the field of oncology, we need to fulfil four major competences:
- to have strong expertise in specific signalling pathways as well as the necessary innovating techniques;
- to have strong expertise in a limited number of tumour types with appropriate knowledge of the underlying pathways which drive specifically cancer progression;
- to have strong expertise in the pathological and molecular diagnosis of the same specific tumour types with availability of tumour material;
- to have strong expertise in clinical research with clinical experts who are at least national leaders in the field with capacity to launch clinical trials at least at the national level.
We consider that, in our research unit, these conditions are fulfilled in the following groups:
- Oncogenesis and therapeutic targeting of the sarcoma cell led by Antoine Italiano;
- Genetic Diversity and Resistance to therapy: Mammary and Leukemic Oncogenesis led by François-Xavier Mahon;
- In vivo impact of aging and leukemia on hematopoietic stem cells led by Catherine Sawai (ATIP Avenir);
- Validation and Identification of New Targets in cancer and AGEing led by Pierre Soubeyran;