2012 Fero Foundation Grant to support the study of genetic alterations in advanced colon cancer towards personalized medicine

21 May 2012, Barcelona – Héctor G. Palmer, Principal Investigator of the Stem Cells and Cancer Group at the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO), has been awarded the 2012 Fero Foundation Grant. The grant aims to foster translational cancer research in Spain and has allocated a sum of 70,000 Euros to support Palmer’s research project aimed at identifying the molecular mechanisms responsible for colon cancer progression — a disease that affects 600,000 people per year and ranks as the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths globally.

The award ceremony took place last night at the National Theatre of Catalunya, in an official ceremony attended by the President of the Government of Catalonia, Artur Mas, the Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, the Minister for the Economy and Development, Andreu Mas-Colell, the Board of Trustees of the Fero Foundation as well as representatives from the Spanish financial, business and academic sectors.

The awarded project will focus on identifying the genetic alterations that cause the resistance of colon cancer to commonly used drugs. “Thanks to this study, a new genetic trial can be developed to predict the response to colon cancer treatments and therefore facilitate the selection of the most effective and appropriate treatment for each patient”, stated the selection panel.

At early stages colon tumours can be surgically removed and further to the appropriate chemotherapy many patients manage to overcome the disease. In advanced stages however, colon cancer spreads uncontrollably since the genetic abnormalities of some cells render them resistant to the drugs currently available. Identifying these genetic alterations is therefore crucial in order to contain and treat this deadly disease with guaranteed success.

The overarching goal of Palmer’s group is to apply results from research to clinical practice — underlining the critical importance of a translational and experimental approach. José Baselga, President of the Fero Foundation, emphasised the importance of cancer research in Spain and expressed his satisfaction regarding the high number of grant applications received as well as the calibre of the projects submitted.

The fourth edition of the Fero Foundation Grant for Translational Cancer Research recognises a clinical research project with a strong potential for clinical application in the field of Medical Oncology. This year 42 applications were received, marking a three-fold increase since its first edition in 2009.

The selection panel was chaired by Carlos López Otín and composed of five renowned cancer researchers: Joaquín Arribas, José Baselga, Andrés Cervantes, Luis Paz-Ares and Josep Tabernero.

Previous recipients of the Fero Foundation Grant include Jaume Mora, Head of the Department of Oncology at the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital in Barcelona, to lead a research project on Ewing’s sarcoma (2009); Amancio Carnero, the Biomedical Institute of Seville for the study on personalised treatment of sarcomas (2010); and VHIO´s Laura Soucek for inhibiting the Myc oncoprotein present in most tumours (2012).

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