Celebrated last week during the 10th Research Workshop of the Catalan Institute of Health (ICS), Elena Élez, Clinical Investigator of VHIO’s Gastrointestinal & Endocrine Tumors Group directed by Josep Tabernero and co-led by Principal Investigator Teresa Macarulla, was awarded the Young Investigator of the Year by ICS in recognition for her dedication to advancing precision research, treatment and care in colorectal cancer.

Created to both prize and promote biomedical, translational research of excellence led by researchers at entities belonging or affiliated to the ICS, this year’s recognition acknowledges the tremendous work of two up and coming young investigators. Both Elena and Beatriz Mothe, Investigator of the HIV Unit – Department of Infectious Diseases, the Germans Trias i Pujol University Hospital, were equally awarded.

In Elena’s case, this accolade not only recognizes her important contributions in biomarker development and rendering targeted therapies more precise, it applauds her essential collaboration in some 200 clinical studies spanning the early phases of clinical drug development, and congratulates her already renowned excellence as a tremendously devoted medical oncologist at the Vall d´Hebron University Hospital’s Medical Oncology Department (Vall d´Hebron Barcelona Hospital Campus), also spearhead by Josep Tabernero.

As a direct reflection of the famed quality of oncology treatment and care provided by Elena and Josep’s entire Service, who work together as tightly connected, integrated and multidisciplinary teams, the Department receives more than 300 new cases each year, with the number of patients totaling at 1000 annually. Importantly, his Department has also ranked first among clinical services in medical oncology with the very best reputation at national level for the last four years in a row*.

Speaking to VHIO Communications, Elena observed “I am truly honored and humbled to have received such recognition. Not only would I like to gratefully thank the Catalan Institute of Health, I am also indebted to my Director, Josep Tabernero. I would also like to recognize each and every one of my clinical colleagues, with a special thank you to Guillem Argiles, as well as VHIO researchers who support, encourage and enable me to also pursue essential research and help to advance approaches aimed at improving outcomes for our dear patients”.

One of those approaches that Elena will seek to further develop in collaboration with VHIO’s translational groups and taskforces, is the liquid biopsy. Since VHIO incorporated in-house BEAMing liquid biopsy RAS biomarker technology in early 2015, the first academic test center to do so, significant progress has been made in validating and developing liquid biopsy and Droplet Digital PCR Bio-Rad technologies for the more effective, less invasive ‘policing’ of cancer over time, in real time.

More specifically, thanks to support received under the TRANSCAN Joint Translational Call on Minimally and non-invasive methods for early detection and/or progression of cancer, Elena will lead a project focused on the early detection of relapse in advanced colon cancer patients by longitudinally following a personalized molecular signature by liquid biopsy. This proof-of-concept, prospective and multi-center study seeks to evaluate the clinical feasibility of tracking tumor progression by dynamically detecting a molecular signature from a blood test.

Watch this space…

VHIO Communications also takes this opportunity to congratulate the other recipients of last week’s ICS Awards: Miquel Casas, Head of the Psychiatry, Mental Health and Addiction Group, Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR), also located on the Vall d´Hebron Barcelona Hospital Campus, who shared the Award for important contributions to research in ICS Hospitals equally with Francesc Vidal, Head of Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases, University Hospital Joan XXIII.

VHIO’s Elena Élez with fellow investigators at the Vall d´Hebron Institute of Oncology. Source: ICSCAT

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* Monitor de Reputación Sanitaria (MRS), issued by the Business Monitor of Corporate Reputation (MERCO).