Dr Olivia Ashman
Oncology Medical Director, Pfizer UK
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.1 Cancer Research UK predicts that one in two of us will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in our lives, with only 38% of cases being preventable.2 Since cancer is a disease driven by DNA mutations, its story is one of evolution,3 and it’s critical that treatment advances keep pace with these changes. Fortunately, recent breakthroughs in cancer treatments have the opportunity to transform the outcomes for many patients, enabling them to live their fullest possible lives.
Thanks to significant scientific advances in understanding many cancers, coupled with innovative treatment breakthroughs, over the past decade cancer care has been transformed. The latest developments in oncology and medicine are getting to grips with the evolutionary nature of cancer and using it against the disease to develop more effective treatments. Through improvements in the identification of risk factors, earlier diagnosis, and new treatments, we have started to move many types of cancer from a fatal condition to a chronic one that can be managed over time.4
The latest developments in oncology and medicine are getting to grips with the evolutionary nature of cancer and using it against the disease to develop more effective treatments.
Leading the way with delivering new treatments
Pfizer conducts ground-breaking research and develops innovative treatments for the improvement of patients’ lives. We are developing treatments that are as diverse as the disease itself with a focus on opening up new frontiers in science, such as personalised medicine. Ultimately, our work is guided by the urgency to help patients receive the next wave of life-changing cancer medicines.
What if keeping one step ahead of cancer, meant totally rethinking and reshaping our understanding of the disease and how we treat it?
The key to successful cancer treatment is not just to understand how cancer cells behave on their own, but to learn how they evade the body’s immune system and existing treatments.5 Pfizer’s pipeline of potential cancer medicines spanning breast, hematologic, genitourinary, lung and skin cancers include a range of therapies with multiple mechanisms of action that target both the tumour itself and the immune system. Personalised medicine, where treatments can be tailored to patients, thereby moving away from the “one-size-fits-all” approach, is also becoming more prevalent in cancer treatment.5
Advances in genetic sequencing has led to personalised medicines being used more frequently to treat patients, particularly for the treatment of lung cancer.6 When a patient is diagnosed, genetic testing means that treatment can be tailored to them. Advances in treatment options are proving to be critical to improving outcomes for patients for a variety of cancers,7 and our journey of research and discovery won’t stop there. When cancers spread to the brain, they can become more challenging to treat. We are currently developing molecules that may be able to cross the blood-brain barrier – a dense collection of cells which act as a security wall to protect our most vital organ - to help defeat such tumours. We believe targeted therapies that bypass the blood-brain barrier may lead to new treatment options for patients.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be a challenging time for many cancer patients. As one of the developers of a COVID-19 vaccine, we are keen to harness mRNA technology into developing new treatments, such as a cancer vaccine.8 The opportunities in the prevention of cancer are significant, and we can already see the success of the HPV vaccine, which has been shown to prevent nearly 90 per cent of cervical cancers.9
Recent breakthroughs in cancer have demonstrated the importance of working together – pooling our skills and experience to deliver the best for patients. As we continue to rethink and reshape our understanding of cancer, our approach is to develop meaningful collaborations with the NHS and scientific community. Our mission is to improve cancer outcomes, and to achieve this we are committed to working with academia, government, foundations, biotechnology or other large pharmaceutical companies.
As part of our ongoing work to share the story of the transformation in cancer care, Pfizer Oncology is proud to sponsor the Cancer Revolution exhibition curated by the Science Museum Group. The exhibitions, held in Manchester from October 2021 to March 2022 and in London from May 2022, shine a spotlight on the evolutionary nature of cancer and look at the available tools and treatments that offer a new direction in oncology and the clinical control of cancer.
A cancer diagnosis is the start of a new chapter in life. With new developments in medicine and oncology, we get to take charge of the narrative and tell a new and more hopeful cancer story.
National Cancer Institute. Cancer Statistics Accessed March 2023.
Cancer Research UK. Cancer risk statistics Accessed March 2023.
Harvard University. Cancer Evolve- Tagging and Tracking Can Help Us Understand How Accessed March 2023.
Francesca Maria Pizzoli, S., et al. From life-threatening to chronic disease: Is this the case of cancers? A systematic review Accessed March 2023.
Cancer Research UK. Is the one-size-fits-all treatment approach obsolete? Accessed March 2023.
American Cancer Society. Cancer Research Insights from the Latest Decade, 2010 to 2020 Accessed March 2023.
Krzyszczyk P, Acevedo A, Davidoff EJ, et al. The growing role of precision and personalized medicine for cancer treatment Accessed March 2023.
Miao, L., Zhang, Y. & Huang, L. mRNA vaccine for cancer immunotherapy Accessed March 2023.
National Cancer Institute. Large Study Confirms that HPV Vaccine Prevents Cervical Cancer Accessed March 2023.