Less than ten years after President Kennedy promised Americans that they would go to the moon, the challenge was met. Twenty-five years after President Nixon in 1971 declared a veritable war on cancer (National Cancer Act), supported by enormous resources, one had to admit that the challenge had not been met. The enemy could not be defeated because the technology advances used at that time did not allow identifying it precisely inside the microscopic living cell.
In France, the fight against cancer has for a long time been hindered by the lack of interest of the public powers and by prevailing resignation. The first truly collective anti-cancer project was the Plan Cancer [French National Cancer Project] launched in 2003, which notably aimed to reinvigorate cancer research. But our enthusiasm quickly became bogged down in administrative roadblocks and a lack of financing.
And yet, the time has come for cancer research to take a giant step forward, in a prelude to a true therapeutic revolution.
Today we know how to penetrate into the very privacy of a living cell, the unit of life. A human being is made up of the juxtaposition of thousands of billions of these cells. Each one, within a diameter of less than a few millionths of a meter, houses a prodigious organization. Inside this organization, we are able today to recognize the centers of command, the signaling pathways, the circuits of execution, the mechanisms of self-control and self-repair, the mechanisms of the cell division control. And we have deciphered the mechanisms (the “seized wheels”) that cause a previously normal cell to turn into a cancer cell. The cancer cell loses all self-control, and divides endlessly, giving birth to countless offspring that are just as undisciplined and proliferate locally, forming a primary tumor, and migrate farther along to implant metastasis.
And so we are now in a position to manufacture drugs that are true “guided missiles” which are capable of targeting the “ the seized wheels” and destroy them along with the cancer cell which contains them. These drugs, which we call “targeted molecules,” enable increasingly targeted treatments based on an analysis of the biological and genetic characteristics unique to each tumor. The path is wide open for personalized treatments, “à la carte;” an inspiring perspective, even if this may raise distressing economic and ethical dilemmas.
More than half of the fifty or so drugs that are used today against cancer are already targeted molecules. And between 800 and 900 new targeted molecules are currently being developed! But we must act quickly, very quickly. While our therapists are becoming more and more successful at making the illness “chronic,” that is, allowing the patient to benefit from successive remissions and prolonged survival, our researchers are deeply committed to perfecting targeted molecules that alone can save a patient when the conventional therapeutic arsenal is depleted.
In its 25 years of existence, APREC has been deeply involved in the progress that has been made. In spite of its relatively small size, it has been able to increase its activities thanks to the unfailing devotion of its researchers, to multidisciplinary synergies, and to multiple national and international partnerships. In spite of its successes, it has been able to remain an ethical and independent organization.
Today, APREC is preparing to confront new challenges. Currently we are planning for the installation of a new pre-clinical pharmacology laboratory in our research facility, which will enable accelerate even more the translational research between the development of a molecule and its availability to patients, and between the information gathered in patients and the development of a molecule. We will need financing to set up this laboratory and to recruit new researchers. APREC, as a non-profit, non-governmental organization, receives no public financing. This is why we are needing your help.
In order to step up the battle against cancer through ever more ambitious research projects, APREC calls upon your generosity. With you, the APREC team will continue to fight body and soul so that one day we will earn the war against cancer.