Investigadores del IIBM “Alberto Sols” CSIC-UAM intentan de desarrollar una nueva inmunoterapia contra las células madre de cáncer del cáncer de páncreas

Scientists from the IIBM “Alberto Sols” CSIC-UAM attempt to develop a new kind of immunotherapy to target the cancer stem cells in pancreatic cancer

The group of Dr. Bruno Sainz Anding, Ramón y Cajal Investigator from the Department of Biochemistry at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, the Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas Alberto Sols (CSIC-UAM) and the Instituto Ramón y Cajal de Investigación Sanitaria (IRYCIS), are working to develop new monoclonal antibodies that will help the immune system identify and attack pancreatic cancer, which currently lacks effective immunotherapy-based treatments.

The project recently received a research grant of 60,000 euros from the Pancreatic Cancer Association (ACANPAN) and the Spanish Association of Pancreatology (AESPANC).

"We seek to take an important step forward in the development of new therapies against these tumors," explains Dr. Sainz, who recalls that pancreatic cancer is currently the third most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Spain, and in 2030 is projected to become the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths, trailing only lung cancer. To try to reverse this situation, Dr. Sainz´s team has developed a strategy to target a specific type of cancer cell, specifically the subpopulation of cells known as cancer stem cells, which are "very aggressive" and "very metastatic" and exclusively mediate tumor growth and tumor heterogeneity. Dr. Sainz and his team (Sonia Alcala, Marta Alonso, Sandra Valle, Laura Martin, Irene Martin and Marina Ochando) have observed that within pancreatic cancer tumors there exists a subpopulation of cancer stem cells that express proteins on their surface, which help them to escape or become undetectable by the patient's own immune systems. Based on these findings, over the next two years Dr. Sainz's team will try to produce specific antibodies to inhibit these proteins 'in vitro' and in animal models of pancreatic cancer, with the hope that these antibodies will "unmask" the cancer stem cells and make them visible to the immune system for subsequent targeting and elimination.

As Dr. Sainz acknowledges, "we do not believe that our strategy will develop into a monotherapy-based approach to treat pancreatic cancer, but rather it will likely have to be combined with standard chemotherapy or other immunotherapies that are already being used in other tumor entities. Nonetheless, if we can facilitate new targets against these aggressive and dangerous cancer stem cells, we can surely make small but important advances towards treating this deadly cancer."