Improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of adult and childhood cancer, among the objectives of Vall d'Hebron research

On World Cancer Research Day, we highlight the impact of VHIO and VHIR projects in the field of oncology.


In recent years, survival among cancer patients has been progressively increasing. Although it is still one of the main causes of mortality in our population, especially in cases with more aggressive tumors, thanks to research we have achieved that in most cases patients survive if they are diagnosed in early stages. Research into the pathophysiological mechanisms of the disease is key to improving its prevention and early diagnosis, as well as for the discovery of new therapies. It is also essential to raise awareness of the importance of prevention, especially considering that by 2040 the number of people diagnosed with cancer is expected to increase by 40% to 60%.

On World Cancer Research Day, we present the most relevant lines of research and projects in this line by the Vall d'Hebron Campus. Proof of the work carried out by researchers at Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) and Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) are the 635 publications on cancer in scientific journals and the 1162 clinical trials that were underway during 2021.

VHIO: a reference center in personalized medicine in oncology

VHIO is a reference center in personalized medicine in oncology. Thanks to a leading model in multidisciplinary and translational research and its participation in consortia and projects with other prestigious centers around the world, it has positioned itself as one of the most important comprehensive centers in Europe capable of transforming, in record time, the latest discoveries in laboratory research into early clinical trials and consequently into new therapeutic opportunities.

Precisely in the field of clinical trials, the VHIO is a benchmark in Europe, especially in the development of early phase studies thanks to the Molecular Cancer Therapy Research Unit (UITM) – CaixaResearch, which since its creation more than 10 years ago has contributed to the approval of more than 30 new drugs. Each year, more than 1,200 patients are included in clinical trials, which represents more than 30% of the oncology patients at Vall d'Hebron University Hospital.

VHIO's 28 research groups from the Preclinical and Translational Program, the Clinical Program and the Transversal Technologies Program, which support all the teams, work in a coordinated way to respond from the laboratory to the needs of each patient, depending on the type of tumor. The VHIO groups are integrated into Task Forces, a pioneering model based on multidisciplinary working groups, in which all the professionals involved in the treatment and research of the different types of cancer participate. In addition, one of the achievements of the VHIO model is based on its great capacity to obtain competitive grants with which to develop different lines of research and participation in international projects with oncology reference centers around the world.

The VHIO also stands out for its great capacity to transfer the advances developed in the laboratory into patents and spin-offs that work to offer new effective treatments to oncology patients. To date, VHIO researchers have participated in the generation of 28 patents and 4 spin-offs (Mosaic Biomedicals, Peptomyc, Reveal Genomics, Oniria Therapeutics), some of which are testing their drugs in phase II clinical trials.

VHIO's activity would not be possible without the support of its Board of Trustees (Generalitat de Catalunya, Fundación Cellex, Fundación 'la Caixa', Fundación Fero and Fundación BBVA) and the donations of different associations, entities and individuals who contribute with their generosity to allow us to advance in cancer research. Donations can be made to the different VHIO groups through this link.

Oncology, one of the main research lines at VHIR

Within the new scientific structure of VHIR, based on eCORE (from the Catalan espais col·laboratius de recerca – “collaborative research spaces”) focused on solving the main challenges in the field of health, we find the Cancer eCORE, formed by 31 principal investigators leading a team of 187 professionals (66% women and 34% men). All of them work in different lines of research, focusing their efforts on studying the mechanisms of tumor origin and progression and translating this research into improving cancer prevention, diagnosis, prognosis and therapy.

The research lines of the eCORE groups include major cancers such as melanoma, breast, lung, prostate, ovarian, endometrial, laryngeal and pharyngeal cancers, as well as pediatric tumors, with the aim of improving the condition and quality of life of patients through:

  • Biomedical research on cancer stem cells, the study of new cell signaling pathways that control cancer cell proliferation and differentiation, and the molecular mechanisms of metastasis.
  • The development of innovative solutions, including the use of new biomarkers, the design of new software and the application of artificial intelligence, the improvement of immunotherapy, early diagnosis technologies and advances in liquid biopsy.
  • Innovation in new drugs and drug targeting and delivery systems, not only by developing new molecules, but also by repositioning existing drugs.
  • The use of personalized medicine to guide the treatment of patients according to the molecular alterations of their tumors.

To find solutions to unmet needs in oncology, during 2021 and so far in 2022, through this program of excellence in basic, translational and clinical research, VHIR research groups working in cancer have signed 200 collaboration agreements both nationally and internationally with various research centers and public universities, patient associations and private companies in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors.

The translation of basic research into solutions for cancer patients is also reflected in the 12 patent families in oncology that VHIR groups have applied for in the last 5 years and the participation in the creation of spin-offs such as MIMARK Diagnostics, which has developed a diagnostic test to detect endometrial cancer, which is the fourth most common cancer and sixth in mortality rate.

Your support is essential to keep research alive. From Vall d'Hebron we continue working to find solutions and care for people suffering from a disease such as cancer. You are essential to continue advancing in improving the quality of life of our patients. Make it possible with your donation at

Proof of the work carried out by researchers at VHIO and VHIR are the 635 publications on cancer in scientific journals and the 1162 clinical trials that were underway during 2021.

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