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19/10/2020 - Press release

Dr. Toni Celià-Terrassa receives one of the FERO Foundation grants for young Spanish cancer researchers

The FERO Grants award €80,000 to young researchers so that they can develop a two-year translational cancer research project

Last Friday, the FERO Foundation announced the winners of the 19th FERO Grants and the winner of the 2nd FERO-Mango Breast Cancer Research Project. The grants, worth €80,000 each, are intended to help young researchers develop their translational cancer research projects over a two-year period.

"It is expected that 277,394 people will be diagnosed with cancer before the end of 2020. We cannot allow the pandemic scenario in which we find ourselves to detract from the treatment and survival opportunities of the thousands of patients who are currently struggling with cancer. That is why at FERO we are doing everything we can to ensure that COVID-19 affects doctors and patients as little as possible, and that resources continue to reach researchers and centres. One way of achieving this is by continuing to support projects through our grants", explains Sol Daurella, president of the institution.

The three FERO Grant winners

 Dr. Toni Celià-Terrassa, a researcher at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) has been awarded a 2nd FERO-Mango Project for research into breast cancer thanks to his project "Double-edge therapy targeting metastasis-initiating cells and immune cells", which specialises in the study of metastatic initiating cells (MICs). The aim of the project is to use advanced imaging technology, RNA sequencing and computational biology to analyse how a patient's metastasis develops, by blocking an immune cell co-inhibitory receptor that can influence the pro-metastatic function of this type of cell, as well as their immune resistance.

Dr. Antoni Celià-Terrassa

"In the field of metastasis research, translational research programmes, such as the one we are proposing, are essential. Through these we can obtain clinical benefits that are immediately applicable to the patient.  The importance of studying MICs lies in the fact that these cells are capable of metastasising into distant organs, which produces a devastating clinical outcome because the process makes them incredibly resistant at the immunological level. At the IMIM-Hospital del Mar, we have detected an immune cell co-inhibitory receptor that we hope will reduce the immunoevasive properties of MICs -their treatment resistance- and, at the same time, help the immune system fight them until they are eliminated", concludes Dr. Antoni Celià-Terrassa.

Dr. Laura Belver, a researcher at the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute, has also received a grant for her project "Molecular pathways and targeted therapies in Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukaemia", for which she will develop targeted therapies to reverse the activity of the SHP2 protein. This protein is encoded by PTPN11, the most common genetic alteration in juvenile myelomonocytic leukaemia. The 2nd FERO-Mango Project for research into breast cancer was awarded to Dr. Esteban Veiga Chacón, from the National Biotechnology Centre, which is part of the Spanish National Research Council (CNB-CSIC), for his study entitled "Next generation of cancer immunotherapies based on bacteria-trained lymphocytes". This project focuses on consolidating the data obtained on the effectiveness of bacterial cells used as innovative immunotherapy to combat tumours, with a specific focus on breast cancer.

About the FERO Grants

Running for more than ten years, the FERO Grants have become established as one of the most important Spanish projects promoting young research talent. The purpose of the programme is to promote the development of Translational Oncology Research. The Foundation places special emphasis on this type of research, as it enables laboratory work to be linked more closely to clinical practice, through the collaboration and leadership of all the agents involved, so that discoveries reach patients as quickly as possible.

"We are conscious of the challenging situation we are all experiencing, we know this is a hard time for private non-profit foundations and their donations, but at FERO we will continue to work each day so that we can keep on awarding FERO Grants year after year", emphasises Piru Cantarell, Director of Fundación FERO.

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