IMIM - Institut Hospital del Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques IMIM - Institut Hospital del Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques


17/04/2013 - Press release

AICR, one of the most important cancer research associations in the world, to finance two IMIM projects

Of the 616 applications presented from all around the world, only 45 have been accepted under the strict selection criteria

The Association for International Cancer Research (AICR) has granted Dr. Anna Bigas, coordinator of the IMIM stem cells and cancer research group, 199,867 GBP (231,491 euros) for the three year project “Notch1 and B-Catenin Crosstalk in T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia”, and Dr. Sandra Peiró, investigator for the IMIM epithelial-mesenchymal transition in tumor development research group, 167,495 GBP (193,955 euros) for the project “Heterochromatin reorganization during the EMT process is controlled by Snail1 transcription factor” also due to take place over three years.

AICR is a charitable organisation which has for the past 32 years provided funding for investigators with high level cancer research projects, regardless of their country, in order to support basic or translational research into the causes, mechanisms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cancer. The Association has a Scientific Advisory Committee which completes a two-yearly selection of projects using strict quality criteria, as only 7 – 8 % of all applications are selected. It is currently supporting 182 ongoing projects around the world.

Dr. Anna Bigas’ project studies Notch 1, a molecule involved in the Notch pathway. The Notch pathway plays a role in the development of a type of cancer called acute lymphoblastic T-cell leukaemia, an uncommon form of leukaemia which generally affects older children and teenagers. It is an aggressive and fast-progressing form of cancer which affects T cells, the white blood cells forming part of our immune system. Although we know that the Notch pathway is required for this type of leukaemia to develop, no treatment has yet been developed as we first need to find out more about how it works and which part of the pathway can be blocked using drugs. Dr. Bigas and her team have discovered that there are other pathways which cooperate with Notch1 to cause acute lymphoblastic T cell leukaemia in mice. They will be using this to study the ability of the Wnt and Notch pathways to cause leukaemia and what will happen along these pathways during the development of the disease, in the hope of finding new ways to treat the condition.

Dr. Sandra Peiró, meanwhile, is studying the process known as EMT (epithelial mesenchymal transition) which is believed to help cancer cells to spread around the body. Epithelial cells are immobile cells covering the surface of organs and cavities in the body, and most types of cancer start out from these cells. EMT occurs when the genes are activated inside epithelial tumour cells and are reprogrammed as mesenchymal cells, which can move and invade other organs more freely. One of the genes involved in EMT is known as snail1, and it acts through the actions of another gene, LOXL2. If we can understand how tumour cells become mobile, we may be able to develop ways in which to block the spread of cancer.

The other two Spanish projects to be financed under this year’s adjudication are due to take place at the National Oncology Research Centre (CNIO) and another on a project run by the Valle de Hebrón Institute of Research (VHIR).

Further information on AICR at:

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