New and necessary therapeutic options
Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide and will account for 9.6 million deaths in 2018. Every year, over 14 million people worldwide are diagnosed with cancer. Globally, nearly 1 in 6 deaths is due to cancer. Approximately 70% of deaths by cancer occur in low- and medium-income countries. In Brazil, estimates for the biennium 2018-2019 are nearly 600 thousand new cases of cancer (Instituto Nacional do Câncer - INCA). Unlike heart disease, cancer survival rates have not improved significantly in the past 50 years. Thus, cancer continues to pose a challenge to medical science.
New advances have been made to complement traditional therapies - surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Among the new therapeutic options, monoclonal antibodies stand out among therapies for directed targets, i.e., those that seek to act on specific molecules present in tumor cells. Due to their high specificity for the target in question, monoclonal antibodies are, in principle, less toxic than traditional chemotherapy also acting in different processes as in the control of disease progression and in the prevention and control of metastases, thus increasing the survival time, with better quality of life for patients.
More recently, a new class of monoclonal antibodies has been gaining ground in the treatment of various neoplasms: immunobiological drugs, which act on the patient's immune system and have been revolutionizing the treatment of some tumors, such as melanoma. Greater efficacy, coupled with lower toxicity, has made some of these drugs currently be listed as first line of treatment in some types of cancer. Another possible action of the monoclonal antibodies that has also been studied involves their ability to carry toxins to a specific site. These are the so-called Antibody Drug Conjugates (ADCs) that can induce the death of specific cells, such as tumor cells.