We are working to invent a world where cancer can not only be treated but cured.
Our mission is to deliver breakthrough innovations that extend and improve the lives of people with cancer
We are working on preventing cancer, giving patients more options for treating their cancer, more quality of life and more time.
Our work in oncology
Clinical studies with our cancer drugs
Types of cancer for which our products are being tested
Our research in cancer
Our team of researchers and scientists combine a deep understanding of genomics, biology and the immune system to improve the way we fight cancer.
Progress through partnerships
Cancer can be devastating for patients and their loved ones. That's why we work with the entire cancer community - stakeholders, healthcare providers, governments and industry peers - who all share our mission to extend and improve the lives of people living with cancer.
What is cancer and how does it occur?
The term “cancer” is used to describe a large group of malignant tumors (malignant neoplasms) that can occur in almost any organ or tissue of the body.
The human body is made up of countless cells. In order to stay healthy, cells need to be renewed on a regular basis. Old and damaged cells die. Cancer cells are faulty cells in the body that divide uncontrollably even though no new cells are needed. Usually, the immune system recognizes cancer cells and kills them, but some cancer cells are mutated in such a way that they are not recognized by the immune system. This allows them to continue to divide uncontrollably.
So far, it has not been possible to identify specific causes for every cancer. Triggers for the development of cancer can be an unhealthy lifestyle such as smoking, lack of exercise, high alcohol consumption, and poor diet. Environmental influences or infectious diseases, such as HPV (human papilloma virus) or hepatitis B and C, can also lead to cancer. Congenital defects in the genetic material can also be the trigger for cancer.
If cancer is detected at an early stage, the chances of successful treatment are better. Early detection, also called screening, plays an important role. Screening can identify patients at an early stage of cancer, before they suffer from symptoms. For this purpose, patients of a certain age are regularly examined. Examples of cancer screening programs in Austria are mammography for women between 45 and 69 years of age and the annual examination of the skin and moles at the dermatologist.
Forms of cancer therapy
Several therapeutic options are available for the treatment of cancer, which can be used alone or in combination. MSD is a pioneer in the research of immuno-oncology therapies – one of the most innovative treatments for cancer.
The basic idea of immunotherapy is to reactivate the body's own immune system to fight the cancer cells and thus make the cancer treatable. One variant of this immunotherapy is the use of therapeutic antibodies. Cancer cells can acquire the ability to present molecules on their surface whose task it is to switch off immune cells, preventing them from attacking. Therapeutic antibodies now specifically exploit this mechanism: They block and mask these surface molecules and thus switch off the camouflage mode of the cancer cells. Immune cells can now again recognize cancer cells as degenerated cells and try to eliminate them.
Targeted therapy focuses on cellular processes that play a role in tumor development. Many processes in the human body are mediated by chemical signals. A messenger substance binds to a receptor molecule and thus triggers a reaction – for example growth or cell division. Some cancers produce a lot of receptor molecules and thus constantly get the signal to divide and grow. Targeted therapies specifically inhibit this signal transmission, fighting the further growth of the tumor.
Cancer cells differ from healthy cells in a number of ways. Among other things, cancer cells have a higher metabolism and divide much faster than healthy body cells. This characteristic is exploited in chemotherapy. Cancer cells absorb chemotherapeutic agents and can be damaged and killed by them. However, the drug also affects healthy cell systems which also divide very quickly. That is why chemotherapy, for example, can cause hair to fall out.
Radioactive radiation damages human cells in a dose-dependent manner. This effect is used in radiotherapy to specifically irradiate and damage a tumor.
Surgical interventions are particularly important in the early stages of cancer and can achieve great success, especially with localized tumors. The removal of a tumor alone, however, is often not sufficient. Depending on the type of tumor, further therapies are then carried out. Similarly, another form of therapy may be used prior to surgery to shrink the tumor, making surgery easier or even possible in the first place.
For almost all patients, cancer, especially at an advanced stage, is associated with drastic changes in their lives. It is therefore important to enable patients to lead a life as normal and pain-free as possible during this difficult phase. Supportive therapies, for example against nausea and pain, as well as psycho-oncological care and rehabilitation support the patients.
In 2020, about 19 million new cancer illnesses were documented worldwide.
Every year in Austria, about 42,000 people fall ill with cancer.
Good early detection strategies and avoiding risk factors allow 30-50% of cancer illnesses to be prevented, according to the WHO.
We want to give patients hope
Our goal is to make a decisive contribution to the treatment of and fight against cancer. Therefore we are focusing, among other things, on research into innovative drugs and new treatment methods in the field of immuno-oncology.
Immunotherapy has had a significant impact on the treatment of cancer patients since it was first approved in Austria five years ago. In this video Prof. Erika Richtig, FOA, shares her personal experience with melanoma patients who received immunotherapy.
More moments count
Beyond scientific research, we are committed to raising awareness about cancer. In our project “More moments count” we offer information worth knowing about cancer therapy and answers to frequently asked questions
AT-NON-01114, created October 2021