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Tightening the ring around a powerful enemy

Center for Research and Treatment of Cancer will use information provided by the Genome Cancer Project

Two institutes with a long tradition of cancer research and treatment, the A. C. Camargo Cancer Hospital and the Ludwig Institute for Research into Cancer have constituted the Antonio Prudente Center of Cancer Research and Treatment. “With the support of FAPESP, the Center will use information provided by the Genome Cancer Project to move forward in the identification of new genes and to look for new ways of diagnosing and treating and in developing new drugs”, explains Ricardo Renzo Brentani, director of the Center.

The changes that have been occurring in demographic distribution in the state of São Paulo and the limited progress in relation to prevention and therapy of malignant tumors suggest that over the next few decades, cancer will be a factor of major impact in public health. To face this prospect, the idea of the Center’s research scientists is to find ways of fighting cancer using an integrated and multidiscipline approach where research is the main component. The prevention, diagnosis and treatment will be the focus for the three main areas of action: research, education and transfer of scientific know-how.

The hospital already has a 66% cure rate. “It is not higher still because the patient seeks treatment when the disease is already too far advanced. We will only move forward using the benefits of basic research if we are able to treat patients when the illness is in its initial stages”, says Brentani.

The other focus of the Center’s work will be the prevention of illness. According to Brentani, at least 75% of the tumors have known causes: 35% result from cigarette smoking, 15% from alcohol, 10% are caused by viruses, such hepatitis or the papilloma virus and 15% are due to hereditary causes. And in this latter case there already are laboratory methods for evaluating the hereditary risks. The idea is to carry out a broad-based campaign using videos and CDs, to inform the population on the risky situations. “We have already done isolated experiments of courses for public school teachers with the intention to spread the word far and wide on this disease. Now it will be possible to inform the public that they can’t ignore the diagnosis. This only reduces your chances of a cure, which are good if cancer is identified in its early stages.”

The Center intends to boost still further the female network of volunteers, responsible for giving courses to the community at large, as well as increase the number of post-graduate, Ph.D. and specialization courses in the diagnosis and treatment of the illness. “In the 90 medical schools in Brazil, no more than 20 include oncology in the graduate courses. The lack of information increases mortality rates and the costs for the State”, reflects Brentani.

According to the selection panel, which evaluated the proposal, the results of the research will be important in the implementation of public health policies. “Without any doubt, the information that will be obtained from the analysis of the human genome is going to raise a series of questions and the reply must be in the form of adequate public policies.”