Spanish oncology: A leap towards more cures

Cancer survival rates on the up

A patient in consultation with a doctor. Credit: S_L/

 This week, a report from the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM) unveiled an upward trend in cancer cases across Spain.

Yet, mortality rates from the disease are not climbing at the same pace, thanks to significant strides in medical understanding, treatment innovations, and patient care.

Rising incidence but improved survival rates

Lisardo Ugidos de la Varga, the newly appointed director of Clinical Research at the Vithas Cancer Institute in Madrid, shared an optimistic outlook with 20minutos. ‘In the coming years, more and more people will be cured,’ he remarked, underscoring the advancements behind the positive trend.

The increase in cancer diagnosis, as highlighted by the SEOM report, springs from various factors. Ageing populations, larger community sizes, and enhanced early detection methods are primary contributors.

Lifestyle and diet also play a role, with sedentary habits and poor nutrition adding to the risk. Yet, Ugidos emphasises, ‘this increase in incidence… is not accompanied by an increase in mortality.’

He anticipates a significant boost in cure rates over the next two decades, driven by early prevention and treatment advancements.

Facing Spain’s cancer challenge

In Spain, the cancer landscape is shaped by the prevalence of lung, breast, colorectal, prostate, and bladder cancers. Lung cancer leads in mortality among men and ranks second in women. Despite advancements, breast cancer remains the top cause of cancer incidence and mortality in women.

The battle against highly lethal cancers, such as those affecting the pancreas, esophagus-gastric area, and lungs, continues.

These cancers present the lowest survival rates five years post-diagnosis, highlighting the urgency for enhanced prevention and treatment methods.

Advancing prevention and personalised treatment

Ugidos points out the critical need for improved primary prevention through public education and the promotion of healthier lifestyles.

Vaccinations, particularly against the Human papillomavirus, are expected to drastically reduce cervical cancer rates, mirroring successes seen in other European regions.

Spain’s approach to secondary prevention, or early diagnosis, has seen significant improvements. However, screening programs vary widely across autonomous communities, necessitating a coordinated national effort for colorectal and lung cancer screening.

Ugidos also celebrates Spain’s role in oncological research, stressing the importance of personalised oncology. ‘The great milestone has been personalised oncology,’ he states, highlighting therapies targeted at specific molecular alterations and immunotherapy as key factors in improving patient survival rates.

Despite these advances, the challenge of metastasis remains. Ugidos is hopeful, envisioning a future where cure rates could soar from the current rate of 60 per cent to 80-90 per cent.

He anticipates a shift towards living with cancer but with a significantly enhanced quality of life, thanks to more effective treatments and the potential of personalised medicine.

In his role at the Vithas Oncology Institute, Ugidos is spearheading ambitious projects to bring innovative treatments to cancer patients.

Emphasising the importance of genomic analysis for tailoring treatments, he concludes, ‘Through the genomic analysis of the patient’s healthy cells, their tumour cells and their immune system, we will be able to offer each patient the therapy that is most effective.’

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.