At today’s 2018 AECC Awards Ceremony in Madrid

Timed to coincide with today’s World Cancer Research Day (WCRD), celebrated each year on 24 September 2018, the Spanish Association against Cancer (AECC) has just announced its 2018 awardees during a special ceremony presided by Her Majesty the Queen Letizia.

World Cancer Research Day was established back in 2016 by AECC and is officially co-promoted in collaboration with some of the most renowned organizations and international entities in oncology. Aimed at engaging the active participation of citizens, institutions and leaders across various fields to support the advancement of research against cancer, this year’s WCRD global Call to Act was themed, Don’t just stand by in the face of cancer.

The campaign features a short, yet powerful video clip raising the question: What would happen if cancer research stood still? The response, as shocking as it is simple: by 2030 one person could die of cancer every two seconds.

In response to this unthinkable prospect, AECC’s backing of – and belief in – cancer research of excellence has translated in almost 18 million Euros in funding this year through its research grants, awarded annually. This essential support will fuel some 160 projects, two of which will be led by Ana Vivancos, Principal Investigator of Cancer Genomics at VHIO, and Marta Crespo, Translational Research Coordinator of our Experimental Hematology Group, who were awarded under the categories AECC Lab and AECC Project, respectively (see below for further details).

On this auspicious occasion VHIO’s Director, Josep Tabernero, was also recognized as co-Principal Investigator of one of the six international projects to have received an Accelerator Award from the newly established Cancer Research UK (CRUK), Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro (AIRC), and AECC charity partnership.

These highly competitive Accelerator Awards support international collaborations that promise to accelerate translational research against cancer. Totalling at £30 million, this funding has been almost equally divided across the 5-year projects selected this year.

ACRCelerate: Colorectal Cancer Stratified Medicine Network, led by Owen Sansom, Director of the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow, will also count on VHIO’s expertise as one of its project partners. Incorporating a total of 20 international trailblazers in colorectal cancer (CRC), including Josep Tabernero, this tour de force collaboration will seek to identify new therapeutic avenues for the treatment of this disease by discovering and validating novel targets so that patients can be more precisely matched to therapies under study.

Commenting for VHIO Communications Josep Tabernero said, “I believe that current challenges in oncology can only be overcome by combining strengths and pooling expertise. It is thanks to the inspired partnering of three major cancer charities, CRUK, AIRC and AECC, that the newly created Accelerator Awards will promote multidisciplinary and international networks of research excellence and further stimulate our collective efforts aimed at solving cancer sooner.”  

 Ana Vivancos, Principal Investigator of VHIO’s Cancer Genomics Group, received an AECC Cancer Research Grant for the project entitled, Moving liquid biopsy beyond current applications: the study of prognostic and predictive values of circulating tumor DNA in metastatic colorectal cancer, which she will lead in collaboration with other VHIO teams and talents, including members of our Institute´s Colorectal Taskforce.

By assessing the feasibility of combining circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA), imaging, and biomarkers, this research promises to achieve a more precise and accurate stratification of patients with resistant metastatic colorectal cancer and establish who would be most likely to benefit from anti-angiogenic therapies. Since these anti-cancer medicines are both toxic and expensive, there is an urgent need to better guide selection of these patients.

This study has been designed to confirm ctDNA in blood as a prognostic biomarker for both progression free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) in advanced colorectal cancer, and provide evidence for the first predictive biomarker for these therapies. These insights could also possibly be extended to the treatment of other tumor types where anti-angiogenics have shown benefit.

An additional VHIO project to have received an AECC Award this year will focus on Macrophage-mediated immunotherapy optimization in lymphomas affecting the central nervous system. Led by Marta Crespo, Translational Research Coordinator of our Experimental Hematology Group, research will test their hypothesis that macrophages play a central role in the development of central nervous system lymphoma (CNSL) and its potential response to immunotherapies.

The team will seek to describe the implication of macrophages in the growth of CNS lymphomas, establish the relative role of T cells and macrophages in the response to anti-PD1 immune-based therapeutics, and explore the effect of macrophage-potentiating immunotherapy in the growth and immune infiltration of this tumor type. They aim to provide preclinical evidence supporting the development of optimal immunotherapy for patients with CNS lymphoma. To do so, fully immunocompetent mice with CNSL will be treated with both anti-CD47 and anti-PD1 therapies, and the efficacy of this novel combination will be assessed.

Through better describing the importance of the innate immune system and subsequently exploiting as well as potentiating its capabilities, the group hopes to ultimately improve outcomes for these patients.

Acknowledging AECC’s invaluable contribution to promoting cancer discovery and translational research of excellence, Josep Tabernero concluded, “I would like to personally thank the Spanish Association against Cancer for the support it gives to countless researchers and groups across Spain and beyond, including several at VHIO. I also take this opportunity to applaud and congratulate this marvelous Association as  founder and leader of World Cancer Research Day.”

To discover more about World Cancer Research Day and lend your support to this important cause by signing the World Declaration for Cancer Research, please visit: www.worldcancerresearchday.com.

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