2018 October 5

The Josep Carreras Research Institute opens the largest centre to fight leukaemia in Europe

With more than 10,000 m² the Josep Carreras Foundation has invested 26 million euros in construction and equipment on its ICO-Germans Trias i Pujol Campus and other facilities

The Josep Carreras Foundation takes another step forward in the search for the cure for leukaemia by opening the new headquarters of the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute on its ICO-Germans Trias i Pujol Campus in Badalona. The organization has invested 26 million euros, mainly provided by charity concerts given by Mr Carreras, the over 100,000 members of the Foundation and business partners. With more than 10,000 m², it Is the largest European research centre dedicated to monographic research into the disease.

The building has been designed by the architect Eduardo Talon, who was also behind the concept of the ALBA Synchrotron.

Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute is a public sector non-profit organization created jointly with the Catalonian Government, the Generalitat. It is part of the CERCA Centres network of the Generalitat.  There are currently more than 100 researchers working there and this is planned to rise to 300 professionals.  In recent years various promising scientific discoveries have been patented.

“The Institute is a good example of the collaboration between private and public sectors. Our aim is for this to be desirable and sustainable, combining equality, scientific excellence and agile management,” comments Josep Carreras. During the course of the ceremony the tenor also officially announced the nomination of Dr Manel Esteller as Director of the Institute and expressed his great satisfaction about the appointment. Dr Esteller will be taking up the post very soon.

“This magnificent building has been built and equipped thanks to the resources generated by Josep Carreras and his charity concerts, the generosity of our members and the contribution of the “la Caixa” Foundation, which has accompanied us from the very beginning. We must also give thanks for the continued generosity of Chopard and Janssen who have helped us to build and equip the library in the centre. For running costs the institute counts on an annual budget from the Generalitat, Government of Catalonia, funds from the Josep Carreras Foundation and competitive research funding,” explains Antoni Garcia Prat, Managing Director of the Josep Carreras Foundation.

The institute has close collaborations with hospitals and health centres and promotes translational research. The staff includes many basic research scientists, who focus on the mechanisms that cause the disease to appear. They are in constant contact with health professionals and haematologists who are the ones treating the patients in hospitals and together they try to answer questions such as why some forms are resistant to drugs, how to predict the response of each patient and so on. This model speeds up the research processes and aims for discoveries and new treatments to be available to patients in a shorter space of time.

“Today, despite the huge progress that has been made in diagnostics and therapies, leukaemia and other malign blood diseases have not been completely beaten. We need to continue research to understand their causes and apply new treatments, which are becoming ever more specific and personalized. Among recent advances, we can say that immunotherapy has a great future,” explains Professor Evarist Feliu, Scientific Director of the Josep Carreras Foundation.

“We will cure leukaemia thanks to the integrated work of basic and clinical researchers and translational research.  We have deeply committed staff with very different and complementary backgrounds: doctors, biologists, biochemists, bioinformatics, pharmacists and laboratory technicians. Besides this, all our laboratories are located “at the bedside” in that they are on healthcare campuses. This is fundamental for bringing research to the first beneficiary, who must be the patient,” adds Dr Francesc Solé, Scientific Director of the ICO-Germans Trias i Pujol Campus of the institute.

This opening constitutes a starting point to continue and improve all the research being carried out. The Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute is a centre immersed in the healthcare system and public research structure. The three campuses of the institute are located close to three of the large reference hospitals in Catalonia: the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, the Germans Trias I Pujol University Hospital in Badalona and the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, also in Barcelona. These campuses have a close relationship with the public universities of Catalonia and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

Research Lines and Support

With the objective and commitment to making leukaemia a curable disease for everybody and in all cases, the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute covers lines of research principally in leukaemia, but also in other cancers of the blood such as; lymphomas, multiple myeloma or myelodysplastic syndromes amongst others. Transversal lines of research benefit all haematological patients: improvements in bone marrow transplants (efficiency and secondary effects); epigenetic alterations, which can give rise the development of tumour cells; clinical trials or studies into thrombosis and infections, which are the main causes of death in these patients.

Of the projects being carried out at the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute, the 2 million euro project for the European Research Council (ERC), led by Dr Pablo Menéndez stands out. Dr Menéndez is an ICREA (Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies) Research Professor who studies an acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in new-borns, a disease with a very poor prognostic in most cases.

The institute also works on international collaborations, especially with centres of excellence in Germany thanks to the funding of the German Josep Carreras Foundation, which is based in Munich.

30 years of the Josep Carreras Foundation

The Josep Carreras Foundation was created in 1988 and was the first institution undertaking research exclusively into leukaemia in Spain. The tenor Josep Carreras is President of the Foundation and the Institute. In 1991 the Spanish Bone Marrow Donors Register (REDMO) was set up to be managed jointly with the national public health service, under the protection of the Ministry of Health and in collaboration with all the autonomous communities in Spain to provide state-wide cover for the treatments needed.

Thanks to the REDMO Programme the Josep Carreras Foundation has access to 32 million bone marrow donors from around the world and the 700,000 units of umbilical cord available. Since the beginnings, 14,000 compatible donors have been located for Spanish patients who required a transplant and who did not have a compatible family member and more than 9,000 people in Spain have received transplants from anonymous donors.

The Foundation offers a free service of medical advice and accommodation for patients with limited resources who need to travel to parts of Spain far from their homes for long term treatments. Since the start, the Josep Carreras Foundation has attended more than 20,000 appointments to inform patients.

Leukaemia

Every year 5,400 cases of leukaemia are diagnosed in Spain. Childhood cancer is the most frequent (30% of cases are in children). Cancers of the blood, especially leukaemia and lymphomas are considered to be the gateway to the final curation of cancer.

Haematology is a medical specialization which has experienced a rapid evolution in recent decades.  For example, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma are the two cancers with the highest rate of cure. Besides these, many types of leukaemia have seen a radical change in treatments thanks to scientific research.  

The three paradigmatic cases that most illustrate the need for research are chronic myeloid leukaemia, acute promyelocytic leukaemia and B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.