Isidro Fainé, President of the Fundació Bancária ”la Caixa” with our Director, Josep Tabernero, upon the signing of our new VHIO-“la Caixa” 4-year Advanced Oncology Research Program (2020-2023).

Building on the successes of the two previous VHIO-“la Caixa” Institutional 3-year Programs, we are delighted to announce that this week celebrated the signing of a new 4-year Advanced Oncology Research Program (2020-2023) that will seek to expand our portfolio of pioneering early phase clinical studies carried out by VHIO’s clinical investigators at our Research Unit for Molecular Therapy of Cancer (UITM)* –also supported by La Fundació Bancária “la Caixa”. Marking the UITM turning ten this year as well as the ringing in of a new VHIO decade, support totaling at 6 million Euros will further spur our purely translational and multidisciplinary teams to develop more potent and precise anti-cancer medicines, fortify existing research lines as well as initiate new projects to lead frontier research in some of the most relevant and rising focus fields in precision oncology.

More specifically, our transformative research lines will continue to center on those areas showing particular promise in solving the multiple questions that stand in the way of our collective efforts aimed at more effectively combating cancer. Just some of these scientific directions will include our continued unpicking of the complex role that the microbiome plays in cancer development across different tumor types, driving ‘big’ data-derived insights, and devise and integrate cutting-edge platforms incorporating bioinformatics, biostatistics and machine learning applications in cancer prognosis and prediction, as well as harness the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the development of individually matched therapies.

 Commenting for VHIO Communications, our Director, Josep Tabernero, said, “In parallel with our plans to grow our portfolio of clinical trials and further develop novel and complex trial design, we will continue to advance and apply the new kids on the block in anti-cancer approaches and armory including the liquid biopsy, RNA expression analysis, immune-based therapies, bispecific antibodies, oncolytic virus, and intratumoral therapy. At the same time, our translational teams and research groups will focus on identifying novel biomarkers of disease progression and response to more precisely select the patients who would most likely benefit from these treatments.”

It is also thanks to the VHIO- “la Caixa” Advanced Oncology Research Program that we will more rapidly extend our reference prescreening program to an increasing number of patients by including newly exposed molecular alterations in tumors.

The combined expertise and strong collaboration between our Cancer Genomics, Molecular Oncology, Early Clinical Drug Development, and Oncology Data Science (ODysSey) Groups –directed by Ana Vivancos, Paolo Nuciforo, Elena Garralda, and Rodrigo Dienstmann respectively, enable us to currently perform molecular profiling in over 1,500 patients each year as potential candidates for enrollment in early phase clinical trials at UITM – “la Caixa”, also directed by Elena.

Furthermore, to ensure user-friendliness and ease of data interpretation, VHIO scientists will continue to partner with other leading research entities across the globe to digitalize platforms and provide state-of-the-art tools that will enable healthcare professionals in oncology to more precisely diagnose disease and thus, more accurately inform clinical decision making.

“On behalf of us all at VHIO, I would like to gratefully thank the continued belief and backing of one of our patrons and major supporters, “la Caixa”. As the VHIO-“la Caixa” UITM turns ten this year I also take this opportunity to recognize and salute the dedication of our clinical and translational investigators, as well as our team of clinical research oncology nurses headed by Nines Peñuelas, who have all made the past decade’s total of 1,060 Phase I and 1,076 Phase II insightful studies possible,” added Josep.

“Counting on the participation of 7,302 of our amazing and cherished patients, these trials have subsequently led and/or contributed to the approval of some 30 novel anti-cancer agents by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” he concluded.

For more information about our VHIO-“la Caixa” Advanced Oncology Research Program, broad portfolio of early Phase studies, as well as our translational and clinical research teams and projects please contact: Amanda Wren, Director of Communications, Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO): Email: awren@vhio.net, Tel. +34 932 543 450, Mob. +34 695 207 886.

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VHIO’s Research Unit for Molecular Therapy of Cancer (UITM) –”la Caixa” at a glance

Inaugurated in June 2010, thanks to the support received from the Fundació Bancària ”la Caixa”, the Research Unit for Molecular Therapy of Cancer (UITM) – ”la Caixa”, directed by Elena Garralda, is dedicated to complex clinical trials with drugs in early development (Phase I and early Phase II trials), focusing on novel targets. Occupying a total surface area of 1000 m2 our Unit is located within the General Area of the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital, the Vall d’Hebron Barcelona Hospital Campus.

This privileged environment with direct access to patients -coupled with VHIO’s translational approach to research and superb scientific framework- has enabled the UITM to rapidly establish itself as one of the few comprehensive facilities in Europe to rapidly transform latest discovery into benefits for patients.

By promoting tight connectivity between oncology care and research VHIO investigators establish novel treatment models for patients with highly selective drugs, and advance insights into tumor diseases and how to treat them in an individualized way – getting the right therapy to the right patient at the right time.

In 2019, the Unit participated in 298 ongoing Phase I and II trials, 60 of which were first-in-human. UITM’s facilities, coupled with VHIO’s multidisciplinary clinical teams, enable the continued to expansion of its portfolio of early phase studies including complex studies such as ‘baskets’.

As an example, the Basket of Baskets (BoB) trial –designed and led by VHIO- is a novel study in personalized medicine integrating cutting-edge molecular prescreening, the development of new diagnostic tests such as circulating DNA with the testing of targeted therapies in populations of patients with identified molecular alterations in their tumors and a high probability of benefiting from the selected treatments. This is an academic study, endorsed by the Cancer Core Europe (CCE) Consortium, and co-funded by pharmaceutical companies.

Research carried out at UITM by VHIO’s Early Clinical Drug Development Group (PI Elena Garralda) centers on the development of new drugs based on the molecular profile of each tumor as well as the optimization of treatment regimens using combinations of new agents with those that already exist. Reflective of VHIO’s purely translational model, our studies are also linked to several research lines led by other VHIO groups, thus connecting molecular biology and optimal tumor models with pharmacology and innovative clinical research. Our Institute’s scientists also collaborate closely in clinical trials to facilitate biomarker development, a deep understanding of the mechanism of action, as well as research into mechanisms of cancer drug resistance.