The Spanish Association Against Cancer selects five projects from the Josep Carreras Institute for its 2023 Research Grants

The Association Against Cancer has celebrated the presentation of its 2023 Research Grants, in which they have selected the projects of researchers Pablo Menéndez, Eulàlia Genescà, Álvaro Alcalde and Gerardo Ferrer, from the Josep Carreras Institute, and the project of OneChain Immunotherapeutics, spin-off of the Institute. With these grants, the AECC seeks to promote cutting-edge cancer research and support research talent.

The Spanish Association Against Cancer selects five projects from the Josep Carreras Institute for its 2023 Research Grants
The Spanish Association Against Cancer selects five projects from the Josep Carreras Institute for its 2023 Research Grants

The projects of researchers Pablo Menéndez, Eulàlia Genescà, Álvaro Alcalde and Gerardo Ferrer have been selected by the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC) in its 2023 Research Grants. OneChain Immunotherapeutics, spin-off of the Institute and Dr Menéndez, has also received the IMPACT Award, in the first edition that the association provides support to companies. The presentation of the awards for those projects taking place in Barcelona was held on Thursday 7 March.

The event was attended by Dr. Laureano Molins, president of the Association Against Cancer in Barcelona, and Dr. Marta Puyol, scientific director of the Scientific Foundation of the Association Against Cancer. Two round tables were held with the participation of patients and some of the researchers who had received grants, who discussed on how to ensure that research’s results reach patients and the importance of research to increase cancer survival.

The main objective of these Research Grants is to support research talent in order to guarantee their job stability and allow researchers to develop talent in Spain, to promote clinical research in order to involve medical professionals in research and thus bring the results closer to patients, and also to continue to support innovation with specific grants. "From the Association Against Cancer in Barcelona we work to make our commitment to research visible. With these grants we want to promote the talent and innovation of our researchers and help cancer research projects to become a reality that improves the lives of patients," said Dr Laureano Molins at the event.

The Association's research grants cover all phases of the research career, from internships as university students to consolidated groups, all phases of research, from basic research to deepen our knowledge of cancer to innovation and clinical research to bring the results closer to patients, and all types of cancers, with special emphasis on those lines identified as strategic for their impact on patients (radiotherapy, oncological surgery or epidemiology). These are the projects selected of the Josep Carreras Institute:

Eulàlia Genescà, Acute lymphoblastic leukemia group

Dr Eulàlia Genescà will develop a project to bring a personalised medicine strategy into clinical practice, focused on patients with relapsed or refractory T-cell lymphoblastic leukaemia. It aims to develop a drug test whose results, together with their genomic data, would help a panel of experts to choose the best therapeutic options for each patient. The project will have three phases: 1) the development of the drug test, 2) the promotion of a clinical trial of the test and 3) the creation of a space for communication between patients.

Gerardo Ferrer, Cancer epigenetics group

Dr Gerardo Ferrer will study the molecular mechanisms of B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia from a multilevel perspective to understand the deep and interconnected alterations in leukemic cells. His research is based on the evidence that cancer alters cells not only genetically (affecting DNA), but also epigenetically, transcriptomically and proteomically, which are the most sophisticated layers of cell function. This knowledge may revolutionise precision medicine in the future.

Álvaro Alcalde, 3D chromatin organization group

Researcher Álvaro Alcalde will develop a project on basic research under the supervision of Dr Biola Javierre. They are expected to obtain new data on the alterations that occur in B-cell lymphomas, in which the maturation of B lymphocytes (antibody-producing cells) fails. His approach will focus on alterations in the three-dimensional organisation of DNA within the nucleus, a disruptive vision capable of opening up new lines of applied research.

Pablo Menéndez, Stem cell biology, developmental leukemia and immunotherapy group

Dr Pablo Menéndez will launch the first generation of universal CAR-T cell-based treatments for patients with T-cell lymphoblastic leukaemia. Currently, these treatments use the patient's own T-cells (autologous transplantation), but sometimes the disease, which affects this type of cells, damages them so much that they cannot be used on this purpose. The project will create bi-specific, safe and universal CAR-T cells from healthy donors, capable of recognising tumour cells and eliminating them in any patient (allotransplantation) without generating rejection.

OneChain Immunotherapeutics

OneChain Immunotherapeutics is a spin-off of the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute, founded by Dr. Pablo Menéndez. His team is a pioneer in the development and validation of a CAR-T specific for a subtype of T-type leukaemia (T-ALL): cortical T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (coT-ALL), which accounts for 30%-40% of T-ALL and has a poor prognosis in patients who do not respond to current treatments.

Three years after its creation, OneChain Immunotherapeutics has brought its first therapy to patients in a clinical trial that will evaluate for the first time a targeted therapy for patients with coT-ALL. The trial includes paediatric and adult patients for whom no therapeutic alternative is available. It is being conducted in Barcelona, at Hospital Clínic and Hospital Sant Joan de Déu, although patients from all over Europe will be able to join the trial.