VHIO´s Rodrigo Dienstmann receives Grant for Oncology Innovation powered by Merck

Officially announced during last month´s European Cancer Congress, 25 – 29 September in Vienna, Austria, Rodrigo Dienstmann, Principal Investigator of VHIO´s Oncology Data Science (ODysSey) Group, has been awarded a third of the 2015 Grant for Oncology Innovation (GOI), totaling at 1,000,000 EUR, to be split in equal parts with the other two awardees Roberto Chiarle, University of Torino, Italy, and Josep Maria Piulats Rodríguez, the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO), Barcelona, Spain.

Launched in 2013, the GOI is an initiative funded by Merck Serono to identify and support innovative projects set to advance more precise therapies against solid tumors, with selection criteria centering on and around the potential relevance to patient care, scientific impact, contribution to the personalization of anti-cancer treatment, as well as factoring in novelty and feasibility. As an indication of the high level of competition, this second annual call received 483 scientifically diverse applications from 42 countries across the globe.

Rodrigo´s awarded project will render cancer medicine more precise in colorectal cancer by matching targeted therapies against the four recently established subtypes of colorectal cancer (CRC). This novel, genomic classification for CRC, initially presented as first outing data during last year´s ASCO Annual Meeting, 29 May – 02 June, Chicago, USA, was evidenced by consensus as a result of a major cross-border collaboration led by an international consortium of excellence – the Colorectal Cancer Subtyping Consortium (CRCSC). First-authored by Rodrigo, the final findings from the Consortium were published in Nature Medicine last week*.

The four main subtypes established by consensus are: CMS1 (Microsatellite Instability Immune, 15% of tumors) is the subtype that is characterized by a prominent immunological activation, and represents the group of patients who would most likely benefit from immunotherapies. CMS2 (canonical epithelial, 40% of tumors) is the group with the highest chromosomal instability, which follows the classical carcinogenesis of CRC with activation of the WNT, MYC and EGFR pathways. CSM3 (metabolic epithelial, 15% of tumors) is characterized by deregulation of the metabolic pathways associated with mutations in the KRAS gene. Finally, CMS4 (mesenchymal, 30% of tumors) shows a very poor prognosis with standard treatment for CRC due to an activation of the TGFB pathways, angiogenesis and stromal invasion.

In collaboration with Co-Principal Investigator, Justin Guinney at SAGE Bionetworks, Seattle, USA, where Rodrigo has also been appointed as Research Scientist of its Computational Oncology Group since 2013, his Merck-supported research: Next generation of clinical trials with matched targeted therapies in colorectal cancer (CRC), will explore differential drug sensitivity patterns across a panel of colorectal cancer cell lines using publicly available cohorts with pharmacogenetics data and preclinically validate potential targets in patient-derived xenograft models at VHIO.

In order to avoid duplication as well as develop essential collaboration, he will seek to work with industry and academic groups to access gene expression and clinical data from relevant trials and retrospectively perform correlative analyses. Spurred by the results of these efforts, Rodrigo will spearhead next generation clinical trials matching therapy to the particularities of each different colorectal cancer subtype. Emphasis will be placed on novel studies and clinical approaches supporting the optimization of available therapies, specifically drug repurposing.

*Nature Medicine (2015) doi:10.1038/nm.3967

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To read VHIO´s news article on the study published in Nature Medicine please click here.

For more information: Amanda Wren • Director of Communications, the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) • Tel. +34 695 207 886 awren@vhio.net

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