In 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) recorded 2.3 million women worldwide suffering from breast cancer and 685,000 deaths. In 2022 the Institut Curie, which leads all international rankings for the fight against breast cancer, is celebrating its 113th anniversary.
Two-thirds of its over 3,700 employees are working, either directly or indirectly, in the area of women’s cancers, which represent more than 70% of the patients treated at its three sites in the Ile-de-France region (7,000 patients treated for breast cancer, just under 1,000 for gynecological cancer – 2020 figures).
As a Cancer Research and Control Center the Institut Curie is at the forefront in its field and is constantly monitoring innovations and the latest cancer treatments. Each year 1,200 international patients, attracted by the institute’s world-class reputation, send the Institut Curie a request for an opinion and/or treatment. On average, 400 foreign patients each year, mainly from Africa, Europe and the Gulf countries, are admitted to undergo treatment for various types of cancer.
“The Curie name is highly respected around the world. Everybody remembers Marie Curie, as the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize twice, and the person who discovered radiotherapy. We have numerous strengths – we have the backing of a cancer research center, we provide collegial and multidisciplinary care, we are supported by world-renowned specialists and are at the top of the international rankings,” Dr. Alexis Burnod, Department Head and Head of the International Patients Office at the Institut Curie.
Treatment decisions at the Institute are taken at multi-disciplinary consultation meetings, which bring together the patient’s referring physician, surgeons, radiologists, radiotherapists, etc… “In complex situations, this is very valuable(…),” Dr. Alexis Burnod said. “International patients come here because they trust our competence and humanity. They greatly appreciate the way we communicate with them and how we include them in care decisions, which is often not the case in their own countries.”
A committee examines the hundreds of treatment requests from foreign patients and assesses each situation individually. Sometimes, the requests are designed to obtain a second opinion or they may relate to a biopsy that will allow us to characterize the tumor and indicate the most suitable therapy, in the country of origin.
The patients who are treated remain by and large in Paris throughout the duration of the therapeutic protocol. Their insurance company and sometimes their country of origin assume the costs. Most patients finance their treatment themselves.
A dedicated care manager is made available for these special patients. A translation service is provided free of charge. The patients are also offered help to find accommodation and for any logistics relating to the therapy.
Among the forty or so clinical trials under way at the Institut Curie, some studies specifically target the most aggressive breast cancers and those with the highest recurrence rate. For example the PADA-1 trial coordinated by Prof. François-Clément Bidard, medical oncologist at the Institut Curie. This study, which involved 83 centers in France and over 1,000 patients, showed that it is possible to very significantly delay the development of cancer during hormone therapy by detecting a mutation of resistance to hormone therapy (ESR1 gene) and by targeting it through a change in treatment. Another revolutionary project is being conducted involving fibroblasts, these cells that we know to be involved in metastatic spread and resistance to treatment. The CASSIOPEIA university hospital research project led by Dr. Fatima Mechta-Grigoriou, Inserm Research Director at the Institut Curie, aims to detect and very specifically target the fibroblasts responsible for recurrences using totally new therapies.
In addition, the personalized treatment plan offered to patients may also include a program of suitable physical activity (studies show that this reduces the risk of relapse in breast cancer by 24%), psycho-oncology consultations and complementary approaches (relaxation, mind-body mediation, mindfulness, self-hypnosis, EMDR etc…).
Finally, the Institut Curie, the PSL University and their partners are keen to create a structure entirely dedicated to women’s cancers that will bring together all available medical, paramedical and scientific expertises, alongside businesses and patient associations. Led by Dr. Anne Vincent-Salomon, pathologist and specialist in women’s cancers, this project aims to provide innovative answers designed to improve prevention, treatment and care, depending on the various stages of the pathologies and the individual contexts. It will be submitted for financing to the Call for Projects to create new IHUs (Instituts Hospitalo-Universitaires) as part of the Plan France 2030 ending November 7, 2022.