Lead Investigators: Dr. Luis Paz-Ares, Dr. Luis Álvarez-Vallina.
Centre: University Hospital 12 de Octubre de Madrid, National Centre for Oncological Research (Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncológicas (CNIO).
The concept of how cancer develops has changed radically during the past few years. Tumours have ceased to be considered isolated entities that grow independently of their environment, and it has instead been proved that tumour cells have a close relationship with their environment, which they communicate with and manipulate.
Amongst the different components of the tumour’s environment, the immune system has a fundamental role. Under normal conditions, our immune cells (“cell troops”) are capable of identifying and destroying effectively any tumour cells. However, sometimes tumours are capable of blocking, confusing or escaping the immune response against these altered cells.
During the past few years, it has been demonstrated that it is possible to manipulate certain switches of the immune system, to reactivate and/or redirect immune responses against the tumour. This allows not only to eliminate tumours, but to develop a lasting response and prevent future relapses. This therapeutic manipulation of the immune system is called immunotherapy, and its implementation in the fight against cancer has revolutionised how we understand and treat these pathologies.
These kinds of treatments are extremely accurate and advanced therapies, which are showing very promising results, both as stand-alone therapies or in combination with radiotherapy or chemotherapy. However, the different immunotherapy treatments are still not effective in all patients, and it is therefore a matter of urgency to develop:
- Methods to diagnose and predict which patients will respond positively to currently available immunotherapies.
- New therapeutic approaches and strategies to broaden the scope of action of immunotherapies, in order to reach the greatest possible number of patients.
CRIS’s new Immuno-Oncology Unit is a pioneering initiative in Spain, approaching immunotherapies from various different strategies and disciplines, to enable an optimum and more efficient development. It is led by three of Spain’s foremost researchers in this field. The Unit comprises the following three branches:
- Immunotherapy in Lung Cancer and Solid Tumours: headed by Dr Luis Paz-Ares, Chief of Medical Oncology at Hospital 12 de Octubre, who will also lead the CRIS Immunotherapy Unit.
- Immuno -Haematology and Cellular Therapy: headed by Dr Joaquín Martínez, Chief of Haematology at Hospital 12 de Octubre.
- Immuno-Engineering for Immunotherapy: headed by Dr Luis Álvarez-Vallina, Chief of the Cancer Immunotherapy Unit (UNICA) at Hospital 12 de Octubre, and Chief of the Immunotherapy and Cellular Engineering laboratory at Aarhus University in Denmark.
These three projects will cooperate closely in the development of new innovative therapies and new diagnostic and prognostic methods, and their rapid implementation in clinical trials.
Immunotherapy in Lung Cancer and Solid Tumours:
Dr. Luis Paz Ares’ group is distributed between Hospital 12 de Octubre and the National Centre for Oncological Research (CNIO). Its main goal is to identify which peculiarities make it possible to predict patients’ response to immunotherapy, and develop personalised therapies and new clinical trials.
Immuno -Haematology and Cellular Therapy:
This multi-disciplinary group, led by Dr. Joaquín Martínez-López, performs its duties between the Translational Haematology Research Unit at Hospital 12 de Octubre and the National Centre for Oncological Research (CNIO). The main focuses of research are next-generation cell therapies and the design and development of clinical trials.
Immuno-Engineering for Immunotherapy:
Dr. Luis Álvarez Vallina’s group has extensive experience in developing therapies based on genetic engineering. In fact, their work is the cornerstone of current CAR therapies. Dr. Álvarez-Vallina’s participation will allow to generate, develop and apply immediately in clinical trials the most innovative and revolutionary therapies in solid and haematological tumours.
To conclude, this is a unique multidisciplinary unit, which will focus on treating cancers of all kinds using different immunological strategies and generating innovative clinical trials, always positioned at the forefront of new treatments.