Ramón Martínez. Vigo. EFE. Late oncological diagnoses derived from the health requirements of the COVID pandemic have been recurring news in recent months, but Galicia can boast of having avoided this phenomenon with some success. The Spanish Society of Medical Oncology estimates that 21 percent of diagnoses were late in Spain, but in Galicia, while awaiting data, it was “much lower,” says Sergio Vázquez, Head of Oncology at the Lucus Augusti hospital in Lugo and president of the Oncological Society of Galicia. “In Vigo we do know because we have the numbers. We have treated more patients in 2020 than in 2019,” says Joaquín Casal, head of the Oncology service of the Vigo health area.
Both participate from this Tuesday until Thursday in the III National Precision Oncology Symposium, which is being held for the second time in Vigo, this time virtually. 450 attendees from all over Spain, Hispano-America and Portugal have registered. “Galicia in a pandemic suffered a less dramatic situation, especially in the first wave, and we acted with some anticipation. Hospitals did not collapse here, operations continued, expressways and radiology worked. They cannot be compared with Madrid, for example, where it was tremendous, with two or three months of healthcare collapse and hospitals with six oncologists on sick leave at the same time due to covid, “Casal explains to Efe.
The users of the Galician public health, then, seem to have been lucky, but also something else, given that “cancer care in Galicia is top-notch,” presumes Casal.
Vázquez shares the argument: “We have the fastest system of access to therapeutic innovations in the entire State. We put the latest treatments much more quickly, as soon as they have the approval of the European Medicines Agency, without having to wait for the Ministry of Health “.
However, not everything is good news, because in Galicia diagnoses were also delayed, as has been said, in many cases because patients postponed the time to go to the hospital for fear of covid, and now they begin to detect “more metastatic diseases , although less than in the rest of Spain “.
Another negative consequence for community oncology is the brake that covid-19 imposed on the Galician Precision Oncology Plan in which the Ministry of Health worked, paralyzed since the pandemic, and whose recovery is demanded by professionals.
On this precision oncology, “a future that is already here”, as Casal explains, will be debated these days in Vigo thanks to the symposium organized by the Oncological Society of Galicia, and it will address the last hour regarding personalized cancer treatment and the main needs for its complete implementation.
“Precision oncology allows us the best treatment for the type of tumor for which it is specifically designed,” explains Vázquez, who points out that if now the survival rate of people with cancer is around 60 percent, it may soon be higher .
“We have to continue investigating, and that requires time and investment, although unfortunately we are at the bottom of the investment”, Casal media.
At the moment, both point out, personalized treatments are increasing thanks to the fact that oncologists are being able to make decisions based on biomarkers that significantly increase the chances of success in both diagnosis and treatment.
“Making specific decisions at a given moment, based on molecular alterations that are seen in the blood or other liquid tissues of the body, helps us to know which is the best treatment for each patient,” explains Vázquez, who claims the inclusion of biomarkers in the portfolio of services of the National Health System.
“We are talking about a personalized or individualized treatment. If you have lung cancer but you are lucky enough to have a biomarker, you have the possibility of improving survival and quality of life” of the patient, says Casal.
For all these reasons, the program of the III National Symposium on Precision Oncology emphasizes the need to create molecular tumor committees in hospital centers, something that is starting to start in some Spanish hospitals and which is essential to be able to address diagnoses and therapies of the more successful way.
The other demand of the symposium to homogenize access to therapeutic innovations because “there is great inequity between the autonomous health systems”, as Vázquez explains.
“All this helps us and will help us to cure cancer, because cancer can be cured. Cancer is not equal to death,” Vázquez recalls.