COVID19-H12O, sequencing the SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus genome in infected blood cancer patients


Principal Investigators: Dr. Joaquín Martínez from the CRIS Unit for Haematological Tumours.

Centre: Hospital 12 de Octubre, Madrid

Current situation


Since the year 2013, the CRIS Cancer Foundation has been supporting the CRIS Unit for Haematological Tumours (HUNET-CRIS) at the Hospital 12 de October. The Unit is currently carrying out 130 clinical trials and has so far treated more than 400 patients


Dr. Joaquín Martínez heads up the HUNET-CRIS Unit, which is always at the very forefront of research and treatments. The Unit is currently administering cellular therapy treatments with NK cells in Myeloma and Myeloid Leukaemia, and is pioneering the use of revolutionaryCAR therapies.


COVID19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, has unleashed a global health and social crisis, which research is trying to placate. The scientific community as a whole has come together in a global effort to accumulate and analyse as much information as possible in the shortest possible time. In just over three months, a great deal of progress has been made in terms of knowledge of the virus and it causes, but there are still many questions remaining.


Firstly, even though the data show that cancer patients are a high risk population, little is still known about how the disease progresses in these individuals. This group of people includes patients with haematological (blood) tumours. This type of tumour commonly affects the cells that make up the immune system, and so their defences are usually affected. It is vital to know how these people become infected, and how the disease progresses, in order to develop effective preventive and therapeutic strategies.


However, viruses are not static entities. Each time a virus infects a cell, it makes thousands of copies of itself. These viruses leave the cell and infect others. In each cycle of copying and multiplying, errors can occur when copying the virus’s genetic material, and the resulting viruses are slightly different. On rare occasions, these modifications can alter the behaviour of the virus, making it more aggressive, or even change its resistance to treatments. This is particularly relevant at the moment, as we work to develop treatments and vaccines against specific elements of the virus: if the virus changes and is not what we are expecting, these vaccines may not be effective.


For this reason, it is essential to study the virus and its genome in detail, in patients and the health care professionals who treat them. Given the particular sensitivity of patients with haematological tumours, it is very important to focus on them.


The aim of the project


The CRIS Unit for Haematological Tumours at the Hospital 12 de October in Madrid, led by Dr. Joaquín Martínez, has launched a study that will take an in-depth look at the virus genome of each haematological patient and the professionals who are treating them (for a total sample of 100 cases).


The latest genomic sequencing technologies will be used to analyse the genetic material of the virus and identify at a molecular level the potential variations that may appear in any of the subjects analysed.


This project is pursuing the following objectives


  • Study and understand how COVID-19 syndrome develops in patients with haematological tumours compared with healthy subjects.
  • Analyse and trace the origin of the contagion of haematologic patients and health professionals.
  • Determine if there have been changes in the virus genome that may lead to an increased aggressiveness, or a lower response to the treatments used.
  • Pool the data with other international studies, in order to achieve a global view of the epidemic.


This study will generate extremely relevant data to understand how to prevent and treat coronavirus in patients with haematological tumours. We will get a clear picture of the pathways of transmission and contagion in these patients, making it easier to design effective prevention strategies. In addition. The data obtained will help to determine whether the virus is changing and if it might develop alterations that protect it from treatments or lead it to become more aggressive; knowing this, researchers and health professionals can design treatments that are suited to the characteristics of the virus. Finally, sharing the data in a global context will help us to understand the global development of the pandemic, the changes in the virus, the possible appearance of different strains, to implement public health measures aimed at improving treatment, and to design effective vaccines.




The main costs of this project stem from the process of collecting, processing, sequencing and analysing samples from patients and professionals.

  • Processing, sequencing and analysis (€300 per sample) : €30,000
  • Technical staff and data monitoring: €20,000
  • Total: €50,000