A blood test capable of detecting cells. “heralds” cancer in the months or even years to come. At the origin of this medical revolution, which in 2014 was broadcast by the international press, a niçois, Paul Hofman.
Professor of medicine at Nice University Hospital, director of research at Inserm (National Institute of Health and Medical Research, editor’s note), he had just developed a test to detect tumor cells in the blood of people at risk of developing lung cancer . .
Together with Professor Charles-Hugo Marquette, head of the department of pulmonology and thoracic oncology at the University Hospital of Nice, he advocated the selective detection of this disease, which is often discovered too late, when it is no longer operable.
An allegation, fueled by this great discovery, but which failed to convince the High Health Authority (HAS). Until February 2022. “The relevance of carrying out this type of action has finally been recognized by the HAS, Professor Hofman rejoices. For this reason, it has decided to promote projects aimed at evaluating the impact of lung cancer screening; and the Alpes-Maritimes Department, which greatly supported our research, was chosen for an experiment, before the device was deployed in the Paca Region and then throughout the territory.”
Dubbed Da Capo (referring to the Italian musical term meaning “from the beginning”), the studio will combine three approaches: clinical, biological and artificial intelligence, embodied by Pr Marquette, Pr Hofman and Stéphanie Lopez.
The 2,600 patients to be included in the device will benefit from a lung CT scan and a blood test (liquid biopsy intended to look for markers of the presence of cancer), and the results will feed into an algorithm that it is hoped will ultimately improve diagnosis and prognosis. “The initial scan can be done in all the imaging centers that participate in the project”says Professor Marquette.
Towards the green light of the ethics committee
The launch of the project now only awaits the green light from the ethics committee, which must be given quickly. In fact, the stakes are high, while lung cancer is a real scourge. “It is now the leading cause of cancer death in the Alpes-Maritimes, warn Professors Marquette and Hofman. And Nice has the second-largest active archive of patients after Paris.”
Although important therapeutic advances have been made, thanks to targeted therapies and immunotherapy, medicine remains powerless to cure patients suffering from very advanced forms of the disease. “A cure can only be achieved if the cancer is detected at an early stage and treated surgically.”
And that is the objective of the detection actions, aimed at the populations at greatest risk, also Da Capo’s objective: “Smokers and former smokers aged 50 to 80 years, who have consumed at least one pack of cigarettes per day for 20 years.”
The project was presented in the presence of Deputy Éric Ciotti who did not hide “his admiration and his gratitude towards the mobilized teams” and “he commits himself to continue supporting them”.