Translational research in cancer to improve the survival and quality of life of patients

On World Cancer Research Day, we highlight the oncology research model of the Vall d'Hebron Campus that allows laboratory results to be transferred as quickly as possible to clinical practice.


September 24 commemorates World Cancer Research Day: a day to highlight the need to promote research to make available to patients new diagnostic and therapeutic tools to improve their survival and quality of life of patients. From the Vall d'Hebron Campus, with the Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) and the Vall d'Hebron Institute of Research (VHIR), one more year, we join the day to highlight our oncology research model.

Vall d'Hebron researchers carry out basic, clinical and translational research. Thanks to the diversity of tumors and patients studied, the proximity of the laboratories to the hospital and the participation in numerous clinical trials, the discoveries are transferred as quickly as possible to clinical practice. To this end, the Vall d'Hebron Campus makes a joint effort with more than 800 professionals dedicated to cancer research, who participate in nearly 800 clinical trials each year and publish more than 700 articles in scientific journals.

Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology: a reference center dedicated to translational cancer research

The Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) is a reference center in personalized medicine in cancer. It stands out for its work in translational research, so that patients can benefit from the results of the laboratory quickly. And it is a bidirectional model, since the laboratory studies why patients stop responding or respond differently to treatments. Through preclinical models obtained from patients' tumors, the mechanisms of sensitivity and resistance to treatments are investigated.

Another area of research is the development of tools that allow Big Data to be collected, stored and used securely. The patient's clinical data is collected, but also genomic data on their tumors. The exhaustive study of this data allows progress to be made in the development of precision medicine or personalized medicine to offer patients the treatment that best suits their tumor while preserving their quality of life.

In recent months, important advances have been made both from the preclinical point of view that open the door to develop new therapies that are already beginning to be tested in patients such as the two drugs developed at VHIO that are already being tested in phase I clinical trials, or the first patient treated at Vall d'Hebron with a self cell therapy; or the research developed by VHIO researchers that has shown that breast milk could be used in the early diagnosis of breast cancer during the postpartum period. In the clinical field, VHIO researchers have led several phase III trials that have resulted in the recommendation of new treatment indications in different groups of patients with the aim of improving their survival and quality of life.

VHIO has 34 research groups and employs more than 600 professionals. During 2022, VHIO researchers published 412 articles in scientific journals with an average impact factor of 19.14. Nearly 700 trials are currently underway, half of which are early-stage studies conducted at the UITM-CaixaResearch Molecular Cancer Therapies Research Unit.

Oncology research: one of the main interests of the Vall d'Hebron Research Institute

Among the most important lines of research of Vall d'Hebron Institute of Research (VHIR) is the study of different types of tumors. In fact, VHIR has a collaborative research area (eCORE) of Cancer, which aims to improve the outcome and quality of life of patients. This eCORE directs its efforts to reveal and understand the mechanisms of cancer origin and progression and translate this knowledge into new diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic solutions. VHIR's research includes the generation of relevant disease models, biomarker studies, drug development and clinical trials.

Among the most outstanding advances of the last months are the findings in the field of childhood cancer, such as the identification of new therapeutic strategies based on blocking the process of metastasis in pediatric neuroblastoma patients through epigenetic reprogramming of tumor cells, or the development of a new peptide drug to reduce metastasis formation in childhood cancer and breast cancer.

In addition, at VHIR, different researchers are studying how to avoid the resistance of different tumor types to treatments and immunotherapy, as well as the repositioning of drugs already approved for human use that could be effective against cancer in certain circumstances. For example, a therapeutic strategy has been identified for a subtype of melanoma without specific treatment by using a drug approved years ago for other indications, or studying the expression of genes involved in the resistance of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck to favor the response to standard chemotherapy. Also noteworthy is the design of a less invasive, more accurate and faster diagnosis of endometrial cancer, which will improve the management of patients with suspected cancer. In the clinical field, VHIR researchers are working on a pioneering project based on improving early diagnosis of prostatic neoplasia through the generation of artificial intelligence algorithms to improve clinical practice.

VHIR has 12 research groups working in the Cancer collaborative research area (eCORE), where 241 professionals work. During 2022, the researchers of the Cancer eCORE published 304 articles in scientific journals with an average impact factor of 7.77. In addition, the groups that are part of this eCORE participated in 100 clinical trials.

At Vall d'Hebron, more than 800 professionals dedicated to cancer research, who participate in nearly 800 clinical trials each year and publish more than 700 articles in scientific journals.

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