Hospital del Mar Research Institute Hospital del Mar Research Institute


06/02/2023 - Institutional news

Thirty million euros from the European Union for 4 research projects with the participation of IMIM-Hospital del Mar

The Hospital del Mar Institute of Medical Research (IMIM-Hospital del Mar) will participate in four projects that will receive funding from the European Union's Horizon Europe programme. In total, nearly 30 million euros will be allocated to research in the fields of oncological surgery, oncology, obesity and mental health. Of this, almost 2.5 million is earmarked for research carried out at IMIM-Hospital del Mar.

LIVERATION: reducing the recurrence of liver tumours

The IMIM-Hospital del Mar is leading the LIVERATION study which, with funding of 6.5 million euros, will evaluate whether the latest generation radiofrequency instruments available to surgeons for resecting liver tumours are more effective than traditional techniques when it comes to reducing cancer recurrence. Liver cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. In addition, 20-30% of people with advanced colon and rectal cancer have liver metastases.

The project is based on a multicentre clinical trial involving 24 European hospitals in ten countries and 720 patients with metastatic colon and rectal cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma. Its goal is to validate data from previous studies by the Hepato-bilio-pancreatic Surgery Unit at Hospital del Mar, which suggests that using radiofrequency to widen the resection margins in this type of surgery reduces the likelihood of tumour recurrence.

Doctors Fernando Burdío and Patricia Sánchez Velázquez, who are leading the study, emphasise that "If this hypothesis is proven, the oncological impact will be considerable, given that recurrence is frequent after liver resection, and the involvement of the resection margins is the most important prognostic factor." For this reason, results from patients who undergo additional radiofrequency ablation of liver resection margins will be compared with those treated using traditional techniques.

The research component to be carried out at the IMIM-Hospital del Mar and Hospital del Mar will receive European funding of more than 400,000 euros. The European Liver Patient's Association (ELPA) is one of the organisations that will collaborate in this work.

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From left to right, Dr. Fernando Burdío, Dra Patricia Sánchez and Dr. Benedetto Lelpo.

Sagittarius: European clinical trial to personalise treatment after surgery for localised colon cancer

Dr. Clara Montagut, head of the Digestive Oncology section in the Medical Oncology Service, is the principal investigator on the Sagittarius project, promoted by the Istituto Fondazione di Oncologia Molecolare ETS (IFOM) in Italy. Eleven Spanish and two Italian centres are taking part. This is a clinical trial involving localised colon cancer, which will attempt to validate whether liquid biopsy is a useful tool for deciding on the best treatment after potentially curative surgery in patients with localised colon cancer.

"Currently, all these patients are treated using the same chemotherapy protocol after surgery. However, we do know that in about half of the cases the tumour recurs due to so-called micrometastatic residual disease. In fact, 20% of patients are actually cured thanks to the surgery and could be spared chemotherapy, which has a number of side effects, some of which are irreversible", explains Dr. Montagut. Previous work by this group and others has shown that liquid biopsy (the detection of tumour DNA circulating in the patient's blood) is able to pick up micrometastatic residual disease and is the most accurate predictor of tumour recurrence, whereby any patient who has a positive liquid biopsy after surgery will suffer a relapse.

The aim of the project is to demonstrate that personalised treatment based on the results of a post-surgery liquid biopsy is preferable to administering the same chemotherapy regimen to all patients. This personalised treatment will be decided according to the presence or absence of tumour DNA in the blood and may include chemotherapy, targeted therapies or follow-up without treatment, depending on the specific molecular results of the liquid biopsy. It is hoped that this will reduce the risk of tumour recurrence while avoiding the administration of unnecessary chemotherapy.

Hospital del Mar will be in charge of coordinating the clinical trial and recruiting patients, and will receive one million euros in funding.

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From front to back, Drs. Clara Montagut, Mar Iglesias and Joana Vidal.

OBELISK: aiming to reduce childhood obesity

The OBELISK project, led by France's Institut National de Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, aims to nip Europe's obesity epidemic in the bud, starting with children. The continent has seen a rise in the rate of late adolescent obesity from 6% in 1980 to 32%. This has lasting effects on the prevalence of severe obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as premature death and disability. The IMIM-Hospital del Mar is one of the centres taking part in the study, and the only one from Spain.

The OBELISK project will receive 10 million euros of funding. Its goal is to reduce the number of children with obesity who become obese in adulthood by 35%. To achieve this, it has established a series of specific objectives. These include identifying the genes linked to childhood obesity in order to provide additional pharmacological targets.

Work will also be done to generate advances with respect to the molecular mechanisms linked to this pathology and to develop and implement tools that facilitate its prevention and early treatment. The project will include a real-life clinical study of an existing drug for reversing obesity in people with mutations predisposing to severe and early obesity. Finally, the results obtained will be put to use and best practices for prevention and treatment will be shared by implementing educational programmes and submitting proposals to legislators.

The IMIM-Hospital del Mar is participating in the project through the GPCR drug discovery group, coordinated by Dr. Jana Selent, who will study genetic variations related to obesity in children. "The aim is to contribute to a better understanding of the molecular mechanism involved and its functional impact. To do this, we will use computational simulations that will provide useful data for generating innovative strategies for treating obesity", explains Dr. Selent. The project will receive funding of around 200,000 euros from the Horizon Europe programme.

Dr. Jana Selent.

MENTBEST: Protecting mental health in times of change

Europe's rapid economic shifts, the climate crisis, and the war in Ukraine, among other things, are putting a great deal of pressure on people to adapt to these changes. In this situation, some parts of the population are particularly vulnerable and at risk of being left behind and suffering significant stress that may impact on their health in general, and their mental health in particular. To address this issue, the MENTBEST project will focus on community-based interventions and innovative technologies to prevent and mitigate these effects. The initiative will receive funding of around seven million euros.

The IMIM-Hospital del Mar, with Dr. Benedikt Amann as principal investigator, is one of the fourteen centres from nine different countries that are taking part in the project. It is being led from Germany by the European Alliance Against Depression (EAAD) and only two Spanish centres are participating. "We will be working to provide tools that will enable certain vulnerable groups (immigrants, young people, older people, the long-term unemployed and people with severe mental disorders) to adapt and avoid the adverse effects of these changes on their mental health", explains Dr. Amann.

The successful EAAD programme to combat depression will be adapted, broadening its scope beyond clinical depression and suicide prevention to create an intervention programme for under-diagnosed mental health problems, such as depressive symptoms and mental distress, and to improve resilience. This will include evidence-based interventions focused on vulnerable groups.

The project will provide a community-based mental health support programme (COMBINA), including a portfolio of assessment and intervention materials in different languages that can be easily applied in different countries. New technologies will also be used, with the creation of a smartphone app for self-management. The data generated by this tool will help to increase mental health competency.

Among other tasks, the IMIM-Hospital del Mar will undertake the two-year validation of the COMBINA programme, establishing regional alliances for mental health across the five regions where the initiative will be implemented. This will ensure that it is accessible to vulnerable populations. A budget of close to 900,000 euros will be available for this.

Dr. Benedikt Amann.

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