Elena Bernedo Arzac, Head of Global Product Strategy Oncology, Roche Pharmaceuticals, shares her thoughts about Roche at ESMO this year.

Elena Bernedo Arzac, Head of Global Product Strategy Oncology

Even though I now live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I will always call Spain my home, and taking the opportunity to get back to my roots is something that is incredibly important to me. This summer I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks at home, giving me a chance to relax, devote time to those closest to me and really enjoy having deep connective conversations with those I hold dearest. While I am always a little reluctant to say adiós, I have another chance to say hola this autumn, as part 2 of the big Oncology/Haematology conference season begins with ESMO, this year with beautiful Barcelona as the backdrop.

ESMO is a congress I always look forward to. As well as providing a platform for the presentation of the latest groundbreaking research, I find that it is often the sidebar conversations and connections that allow more meaningful and in-depth discussions of the science that sits behind the headlines. These conversations often lead to discussions about new collaborations and how we can begin to map out the future of cancer research. However, we always start by asking ourselves the same fundamental question – how can we improve the lives of people with cancer? The answer always takes us back to science and innovation, it’s where we start, and it’s at the heart of what we do.

At ESMO this year, we will show the culmination of many years of research and development by presenting multiple data sets across a broad range of cancer types, including lung and breast, as well as bladder and liver cancers, which have the potential to change the way we detect and treat various different types of cancer. One such example at ESMO this year encompasses one of the foundational elements of our approach to personalised healthcare, using a liquid (blood) biopsy test from Foundation Medicine. By taking a simple blood draw, the test can help guide physicians to the most appropriate treatment or clinical trial for their patients. The data from the BFAST study represent a significant milestone on the journey to new and more patient-friendly approaches to diagnosing and treating cancer.

The Future

Beyond ESMO, I am pleased to confirm that the future of scientific evolution at Roche looks very bright with many innovations on the near horizon. Today I am most excited about the development of novel anti-cancer platforms that allow us to tackle multiple tumour types, regardless of their location. These platforms comprise a number of pharmacological approaches and therapeutic strategies, including:

  • Bispecifics – A molecule that can be armed to target multiple tumour types, across liquid and solid tumours
  • iNesT (individualised neoantigen specific therapy) – This method involves engineering an individual’s own immune cells to recognise and attack that individual’s specific cancer when in combination with other medicines
  • Anti-TIGIT – A novel immunotherapy target which, in combination with other treatments, also has the potential to target multiple tumour types

I have always been thrilled by the prospect of what great science has the potential to achieve when it’s focused and has a clear objective, and it was in my various roles in the medical and research teams in Roche Spain, that I was able to fully appreciate first-hand the positive impact the research can ultimately have on people’s lives. Today I feel extremely privileged in my current role to lead the global oncology product strategy teams at Roche/Genentech. This role gives me the unique opportunity to work alongside some of the world’s brightest minds, both inside and outside of Roche, including the world’s leading cancer researchers and scientists. Working this closely to these world leading scientists and innovators, for me, is both fascinating and hugely personally rewarding.

Meaningful conversations

However, there is so much more that can be done and we cannot as a company do it alone. It has been said by some, that “it takes a village to raise a child”, but it takes a vast and complex oncology community to successfully fight cancer. This is what congresses like ESMO offer, a chance for the oncology community to come together and create a new future of cancer care. I am passionate about taking the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations so that we can advance the cause together, a desire I know many of you share. This is why I, and several of my senior colleagues, including Dr Christian Rommel, Global Head of Oncology Pharma Research & Early Development (pRED), Dr Alan Sandler Global Head of Product Development Oncology - Solid Tumours, Dr Thomas Buechele Head Global Medical Affairs Haematology & Oncology, and Cindy Perettie, CEO of Foundation Medicine, in addition to several others, will be returning to our roots by making ourselves available on the Roche ESMO booth so that we can hear from you directly. We want to understand how we can make an even greater contribution and how we can collaborate collectively to make a difference.

I am really looking forward to starting the conversation with as many of you at ESMO as possible, and I am very excited to see where our conversations take us.

Please follow the Roche twitter handle and the hashtag #RocheESMO2019 to find out when each of us will be on the booth.

See you in Barcelona,

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Tags: Innovation, People, Patients, Science