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2. History of cancer research

A historical perspective on cancer research

Starting with Hippocrates, cancer has been considered as a retention of humor for about 2,500 years. Modern oncology started in the middle of the XIXe century when improvements in microscopy permitted Rudolf Virchow to formulate the cellular theory of cancer. In the same time, development of anaesthesiology promoted cancer surgery that still remains frequently the first treatment of cancer.

In the last 170 years, a technological projection generated a therapeutic breakthrough every 50 years

At the end of the XIXe century, the discovery of X-rays (Wilhelm Roentgen, 1885) and radium (Pierre & Marie Curie, 1898) translated within a few years into anti-cancer radiation therapy

Then, the development of chemical synthesis led to the transformation of mustard agents and the emergence of chemotherapeutic agents in the midlle of the XXe century (Louis S Goodman and Alfred Gilman, 1946).

At the beginning of the current century, following the progresses made in cancer genetics with the discovery of chromosomal abnormalities (Peter Nowell, 1960) and oncogenes (Harold Varmus & Mike Bishop, 1976), the first therapy targeting a cancer specific genetic aberration was developed.

Finally, after 120 years of trials using bacterial or viral infection (William Cooley, 1891), cancer vaccines, cytokine therapies and adoptive cell transfer, immune checkpoint blockers (Leach et al, 1996) that reinvigorate antitumor immune responses have become in 2010 one of the most important therapeutic option in cancer treatment.

Data sciences: the next breakthrough to lever up cancer research

We bet on data sciences as the technology that will generate the next breakthrough in cancer management. Recent years are characterized by the generation of previously unimaginable and exponentially growing amounts of data. The development of new data generation and computational technologies to integrate high resolution images, multi-omic data, and structural biology with multidimensional biological information generates innovative approaches for empirical analysis of tumour development and progression in tissue ecosystems. Results of these analyses will generate a comprehensive and dynamic view of how cancers initiate, develop and spread in the host as well as mechanistic questions and new therapeutic approaches to significantly reduce disease burden.