Medical science has made major strides in defeating cancer including progress in boosting our resistance to the disease, a leading Italian oncologist told Adnkronos in an interview ahead of World Cancer Day on Monday.
"Tumours are smart, but we are really close to beating them and to making our bodies better able to fight them," Giampaolo Tortora, director of the Medical Oncology at Rome's Policlinico Gemelli's teaching hospital, told Adnkronos Salute.
"We are working at full capacity on the Policlinico Gemelli's new 'Cancer Centre' one of my main goals in transferring to Rome from Verona," said Tortora, who is a pioneer in treating cancer of the pancreas.
The new centre will be able to bring together and coordinate the hospital's extensive oncology work, Tortora underlined.
Last year alone, the Policlinico Gemelli treated 48,000 patients, a "monstrous" number which is far higher than the number of cases handled by many oncology centres, Tortora noted.
"In the field of oncology, the Gemelli is a powerhouse, " he said.
In his 30-year career in oncology, Tortora said he has seen many advances in the field.
"There have been two or three key moments in this revolution and the current one involving immunotherapy is the most solid," said Tortora.
"With chemotherapy and molecular targeted therapy, we had the illusion that we could solve everything, but then there were setbacks."
Doctors must not mislead patients about immunotherapy, which is not suitable or successful in treating all patients, Tortora warned.
"But in the cases were it works, patients have responded well and have not had recurrences," Tortora said.
"Avoiding recurrences is one of the most difficult problems to overcome," he said.
Tortora described the current state of research on the immune system as "an iceberg" of which "we can only see the tip".
The role of microbiota in cancer and its treatment is another area of medical research that has the potential to accelerate our weapons to fight cancer, Tortora said.
"We may be able to improve our resistance to cancer and better modulate the effects of immunotherapy," he stated.
Tortora gave an address at the inauguration of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome's new academic year on Thursday. His entire address at the event attended by Italy's premier Giuseppe Conte is being aired on Sky's Doctor's Life channel (440).