Establishing a world-class translational cancer center


Madrid – Spain has started an offensive to cut the time from bench to clinic. In mid-June, Science Minister Cristina Garmendia signed a contract with President of Madrid Esperanza Aguirre and Mariano Barba­cid, the director of Spain’s National Cancer Center (CNIO) to establish a new CNIO “Clinical Research Programme” at the Madrid-based hospital of Fuenlabrada. The programme, which will be led by Manuel Hidalgo from John Hopkins Hospital (Baltimore), a specialist in gastrointestinal cancer, will focus on translational cancer research – the transfer of experimental therapies from animal models to patients.
To accomplish this, three units – a clinical research unit in which new drugs can be tested on 1,500 patients per year, a diagnostic imaging unit and a cancer genomics unit – will work with researchers from the CNIO. One goal will be to identify and clinically validate biomarkers that indicate cancer disease progression. That could in turn offer novel cancer approaches to late-stage cancer patients, and optimise chemotherapy and targeted therapies to individuals. Another goal will be to identify relevant cancer genes by high-throughput sequencing of patient DNA in order to find novel pathways that could be targeted by small molecules or biologicals.
Barbacid said that the programme is “a pioneer in Spain” and that it would make Fuenlabrada one of the world’s top-10 centres for preclinical cancer research. In its five-year strategic plan, the CNIO has defined the goals of its new clinical units there for the design, implementation and analysis of Phase I and II clinical studies with novel anti-tumorigenic agents. The center wants to hire researchers with a focus on late preclinical drug development, pharmacokinetics, biomarker discovery and molecular imaging, and also join forces with external research groups. In a first sucess, German oncologist Christopher Heeschen from the University Munich has agreed to coordinate a group examining cancer stem cells in order to develop strategies to destroy them.
Initial funding will come from Spain’s Ministries of Science and Innovation, Health and Social Policy as well as Madrid’s health authorities. The Caja Madrid foundation will donate state-of-the-art equipment to the project.



Rome/Milan – Together with two Italian research institutes, British drug giant Glaxo­SmithKline has begun to develop a therapy for the heriditary immune defect ADA-SCID, which affects only 350 children worldwide. Fondazione...



Rome – When it comes to GMOs, the gap between Italy’s federal government and its regions that has marked the country for years is rapidly widening into a gulf. The latest rupture was on display at the October session of the...



Valletta – A new Life Sciences Park is to be created on the outskirts of Malta’s capital Valletta. The EUR20m project will provide space for companies operating in biotechnology and medical sciences. The park will be located in...



Verona – Scientists at Glaxo­SmithKline in Verona have discovered that specific neurons in the amygdala control how mice react to fear stimuli. When they switched off the so-called Type I cells in the animals’ amyg­dala, the mice...



San Michele all’Adige – The genetic code of the Golden Delicious apple has been deciphered. Led by Riccardo Velasco at the Edmund Mach Foundation in San Michele all’Adige in Italy’s Trentino province, a team of scientists from 20...



: It’s hard to be a pro-GMO campaigner in Italy. Since 2001, the regions there have not implemented the plans for coexistence that were suggested by a ministerial decree. Instead, there was a de facto Italian moratorium on GM...



Milan – One of Italy’s biggest biotech players wants to raise EUR58m to boost its pipeline of cancer therapies. The round will be closed on July 16th. With operating costs of EUR22.5m and a total loss of about EUR17m in 2009,...



Milan – Italian researchers have restored sight to blind patients using stem cells from the patients’ own bodies. In a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine (10.1056/NEJMoa0905955), scientists from Modena and...

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