The Worldwide Cancer Research (WCR) has granted €715,000 to the Centre for Applied Medical Research (CIMA) of the University of Navarra for four projects on lymphoma, melanoma, lung cancer and breast cancer.

The WCR is an international charity that finances innovative research work on cancer. It is one of the most prestigious European private institutions and funds projects of special interest in the development of effective strategies for the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. In its latest round of funding it awarded 6.1% of the 600 applications presented.

One of the projects selected studies a type of lymphoma, called marginal zone lymphoma. “We have found a protein (NKX2-3) which is selectively involved in the development of this type of lymphoma, but not in other hematological tumors. The study of the mechanisms involved in the cause and development of the tumor will help us to design a new effective therapeutic strategy for patients suffering from this lymphoma”, explained Dr. José Ángel Martínez Climent, the project leader.

Another CIMA project focuses on the application of immunotherapy for melanoma patients. “A treatment has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but it only has an effect on a small number of patients. Moreover there are still no good markers to predict which patients will be more likely to respond to the treatment. The study we are carrying out in the CIMA laboratory is a preclinical model combining the existing drug with other therapies in order to favor the immune response specifically in the tumor and to improve its efficacy. This alternative will be indicated both for patients with an advanced form of the disease and for those who show resistance to conventional chemotherapy treatments”, commented Dr. Fernando Pastor, the project leader.

In addition, the WCR has selected a project designed to identify new therapeutic strategies for the most common form of lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer (CNMP). According to Dr. Silvestre Vicent, the project leader, “KRAS is the most commonly mutated cancer-causing gene (oncogene) in CNMP, therefore it is an ideal target to try and turn off the development of this type of tumor. Yet efforts to develop therapeutic inhibitors against KRAS have failed for over 20 years. MicroRNAs are non-coding RNA which can regulate the expression of key genes in both normal and cancer cells. Previous studies by our group suggest that some microRNAs play a relevant role in CNMP cells harboring KRAS mutations. The goal of this work is to develop new therapeutic strategies to inhibit the pro-oncogenic microRNAs in order to block the action of KRAS in patients with this type of cancer”.

Finally, the international foundation is financing a CIMA study focusing on the development of immunological tools to improve breast cancer treatment by combining conventional therapy with immunotherapy. “The study is directed to increasing the beneficial effects of treatment with anti-HER2 antibodies, a receptor that is over-expressed in 15 to 20% of patients with breast cancer. We shall study the suitability of several biological compounds in cell cultures and in preclinical breast cancer animal models, which may lead to the application of the most suitable combined therapy for each patient”, explained Dr. Ignacio Melero, the project leader.

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