Joan Albanell Mestres
Main program organization and objectives
The program includes basic, preclinical and clinical groups. Group leaders include basic scientists, specialists in digestive medicine, hematologists, immunologists, a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, pathologists, and surgeons, resulting in a multidisciplinary program that makes it possible to undertake collaborative projects focusing on clinically relevant questions. The ultimate goal for this program is to work at the interface between the laboratory and the clinic, prioritizing translational research.
13 groups (Albanell, Besses, Burdío, Yélamos, Navarro, Espinet, Miguel Pera, Bigas, Manuel Pera, García de Herreros, Gil, Andreu and Lloreta) are accredited by the Catalan Government (AGAUR) and 5 (Albanell, Bigas, Espinet, García de Herreros, Besses) are recognized and financed by the Spanish Network for Cancer Research (ISCIII).
Overall scientific objectives and strategy
We aim to provide novel discoveries that may represent a step forward in personalized medicine across a number of (but not limited to) highly prevalent cancer types, including breast, colon, lung, prostate and bladder cancers, as well as chronic myeloproliferative diseases and lymphoma. These diverse cancers are good representatives of the main types in which our institute has both clinical and research expertise.
Our overall strategy includes the following: (i) Interrogate clinical specimens using high-throughput screening technologies and then go back to the lab, and (ii) Develop hypothesis-based studies in preclinical models and test salient findings in clinical specimens. The basic research groups should study and mechanistically validate the findings of the other groups and also provide translational hypotheses in their current main areas (EMT, NF-κB, oncogenic signaling, among others). We also aim to incorporate, by means of collaboration with other programs, immunology research (Inflammatory and Cardiovascular Disorders Program), bioinformatics (Bioinformatics Program) and epidemiology (Epidemiology Program).
As a result of the multidisciplinary nature of the program, in 2016 we led an Integrated Project of Excellence (PIE called “Uncovering resistance to monoclonal antibodies in colorectal and breast cancer”. This project is coordinated by Joan Albanell with regard to mechanisms of resistance to anti-HER2 in breast cancer and by Clara Montagut to anti-EGFR antibodies in colorectal cancer. IMIM groups of Pathology, Surgery, Bioinformatics, Molecular Biology and Immunology will work in this project.
We are increasingly incorporating immunology and bioinformatics. We are also leading the design and implementation of a broad liquid biopsy program at Hospital del Mar that will be instrumental in clinical care of cancer patients. Sequential blood and tissue samples and clinical data are being collected from these patients. Liquid biopsy assays based on ctDNA and CTCs analysis in different tumor types are being developed by specific translational programs.
Overall technological objectives
The aims are to develop novel biomarkers for cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment selection, and develop novel therapeutic strategies, based on the discovery of novel mechanisms of cancer initiation or progression, as well as on translational and clinical studies.
The overall educational objectives
The combination of researchers with different areas of training (basic, translational and clinical) aims to result in both scientists with a clinical perspective and clinicians that understand science. A number of internal and external collaborations are established, including national and international collaborations.
Main results achieved in 2016
Science, Scientific Production
Total scientific production of The Cancer Research Program investigators was 165 articles, of which 94 were published in first-quartile journals.
Science, Approved Research Projects
Sixteen research projects of The Cancer Research Program investigators were approved. Of the total number of projects, 5 were financed by ISCIII (Spanish Ministry of Health), 2 were financed by the Spanish Economy and Competitiveness Ministry (MINECO). The rest of the projects were financed by private funding: Spanish Association against Cancer (AECC) (1), Spanish Association against Cancer (AECC) in Catalonia (1), Spanish Foundation of Coloproctology (1), Association of Pancreatic Cancer and Spanish Association of Pancreatology (1), Gilead España (1), Mutual Medical (1), Foundation for innovation and foresight in health in Spain (FIPSE) (1). Catalan Society of Digestology (1).
Science, networking activities
The Cancer Research Program investigators have participated in European and national Research Networks to foster a culture of networking and cooperation. The networks are the following: Spanish Society of Hematology and Hemotherapy (SEHH) (Espinet); Spanish Cooperative Group of Hematological Cytogenetics (GCECGH) (Espinet); Spanish Group of Hematological Cytology (GECH) (Espinet); Spanish Group of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (GELLC) (Espinet); Spanish Group of Myelodysplastic Syndromes (GESMD) (Espinet); Spanish Association of Human Genetics (AEGH) (Espinet); Lymphoma Group of the Spanish Association of Dermatology and Venereology (AEDV) (Espinet); European Cytogeneticists Association (ECA) (Espinet); Splenic B-cell Lymphoma Group (SBLG) (Espinet); Cytogenetic European Quality Assessment (CEQA), Mature B&T Cell Neoplasms (Espinet); European Research Initiative on CLL (ERIC) (Espinet); GEMFIN (Grupo Español de Enfermedades Mieloproliferativas Filadelfia Negativas) (Besses); MPNEuronet (http://www.mpneuronet.eu/) (Besses); GELCAB Grup d’Estudi de Limfomes de Catalunya i Balears) (Besses); GELTAMO (Grupo Español de Linfomas y Trasplante Autólogo de Médula Ósea) (Besses); ELN (European LeukemiaNet) (Besses); COST Action about Electroporation (Burdío); ITEMAS (ISCIII): Red de Innovación en Tecnologías Médicas y Sanitarias (Burdío); COLONPREV: Screening for Colorectal Cancer in Intermediate-Risk Populations (Andreu); Research Group of PDPCCR - proColon (Andreu), EPoS. European Polyp Surveillance trial group (Andreu); ENEIDA: National Study on Imflamatory Bowel Disease on Genetic and Environmental Determinants. (Andreu); Spanish Coordinator, EURECCA Upper GI Working Group ( Manuel PERA); Spanish Rectal Cancer Project; EuroSurg. The European Surgical Research Collaborative; ESCP pan-European snapshot audit. Cohort studies supported by de European Association of Coloproctology (Miguel PERA); RTICC (Albanell, Navarro, Bigas, García de Herreros, Espinet, Espinosa); CIBERONC (Bigas, Abanell).
Phase I trials, an added value
An added value in the Cancer Research Program is the development of phase I clinical trials, including 'first-in-human' 'firs-in-class', pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamics trials. Due to the growing recognition of the site for phase I trials, additional facilities were set up in the main hospital building in 2013. In 2016, three phase I trials have been started in addition to 47 clinical trials encompassing different phases. The number of phase I trials may be viewed as low but we feel it is in the range that allows us to be competitive in terms of recruitment, considering our patient referral area.
In 2016, we signed 16 contracts with industry for activities ranging from R&D (i.e. developing novel agents in the laboratory/translational setting), to be a national reference site for testing clinically actionable biomarkers in the context of our leading Pathology Department at Hospital del Mar. In addition, there were 11 Material Transfer Agreements.
A total of 7 doctoral theses were defended in 2016.
Weekly meetings were held in the program where PhD students and post-doctoral researchers present their projects and ongoing work.
Monthly meetings were held in the program where principal investigators from outside of the institution, are invited to share the important issues and results in their areas of expertise. Anna Bigas has been coordinating these meetings and an effort has been made to foster the participation of both full time researchers and clinicians.
The program director J. Albanell, as UPF professor, and I. Tusquets (UAB professor) have coordinated a Master’s Program in Translational and Applied Oncology, with the direct support of the UPF Dean of Medical Sciences and as part of the multi-university Master’s program coordinated by UB - UAB and UPF.
Members of the program participate in various scientific and medical societies, and are authors of position papers or members of committees establishing recommendations. The program coordinator is a board member of the Cancer Master Plan for Catalonia.