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29/10/2020 - Press release

Spanish Association Against Cancer funds research project from Hospital del Mar-IMIM, INCLIVA and VHIO on the involvement of the tumour microenvironment in colon cancer

The project's goal is to identify new markers that can predict relapses

The Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM), together with the INCLIVA Health Research Institute, from Hospital Clínic in Valencia, and the Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology, have obtained funding from the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC) for their project entitled Factors derived from the tumoral microenvironment in localised colon cancer: clinical impact and therapeutic implications. 

Dr. Clara Montagut, head of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Unit in the Medical Oncology Service at Hospital del Mar, coordinator of the Clinical and Translational Research Group on new therapies and biomarkers in colon and rectal cancer at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) and a participant in the study, points out that "The goal of this research is to identify markers that will help us determine whether the cancer will re-emerge in a patient who has undergone colon cancer surgery. This is extremely important for people who have colon cancer, since at present we are unable to predict whether the tumour will reappear or not after surgery. Specifically, we will study the role the tumoral environment, everything surrounding the tumour (the immune system, fibroblasts, etc.) plays in the reappearance of the cancer. To do this we will use artificial intelligence, preclinical models in mice, and cell cultures that simulate colon cancer from patient tumours. Our ultimate aim is to understand the risk of relapse, which will allow us to personalise and adjust the intensity of complementary treatments and follow-up in patients who have undergone colon cancer surgery."   The involvement of the Hospital del Mar-IMIM in the study also includes the collaboration of Dr. Alexandre Calon.

The project, coordinated by Dr. Andrés Cervantes, the general and scientific director of INCLIVA, where he leads the Research Group for Innovative Diagnostic and Therapeutic Developments in Solid Tumours (INDEST), as well as being head of the Medical Oncology Service at Hospital Clínic, seeks to understand tumour cell mechanisms that lead to therapy resistance. By doing this, the aim is to rationalise the use of chemotherapy and develop new strategies to guide the treatment of patients with colon and rectal cancer (CRC), avoiding resistance and relapse.

"Our project takes a problem that we see every day in colon cancer patients, into the laboratory.  The goal is to study the microenvironment, or the tumour environment, from different perspectives, so that we can identify markers that allow us to predict relapse in patients with localised colon cancer." In this sense, Dr. Cervantes adds that "In cancer, not only do tumour cells play a role" but "other cells, such as fibroblasts, immune system cells and endothelial cells, which are apparently normal, are directly involved in the development and evolution of the tumour." Also involved in the research is the group of Dr. Héctor García Palmer, from the Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO).

The project, which is to be launched on 1st November, has been awarded an AECC Co-ordinated Group Grant, the purpose of which is to "promote collaborative research through multidisciplinary research groups that respond to an existing clinical need", for the amount of 992,665 euros over a 5-year period.

About colon and rectal cancer (CRC)

Colon and rectal cancer (CRC) is a major public health problem.  More than one million people are diagnosed with CRC each year worldwide, and more than 500,000 die from the disease. The prognosis of CRC patients has improved in recent decades, with 5-year survival rates reaching almost 65% in developed countries.

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