Area manager: Charles Lawrie, Ph.D.

Biogipuzkoa HRI

Cancer is the main cause of death among Spanish men, and the second among Spanish women. Every year, over 160,000 new cases are diagnosed in Spain alone. There are over 200 types of cancer that can occur in any of the more than 60 organs in the human body.

Approximately 1 in 3 people will develop cancer at some moment in their life. However, largely thanks to advances in scientific research and improvements in patient care and treatment, the prognosis for people with cancer has improved considerably in recent years.

The Oncology Research Area works to promote cancer research by developing an integral programme of translational biomedical research.

The Area’s research comprehensively covers differing and synergistic aspects of translational cancer research: the study of the molecules and genes involved in cancer (Molecular Oncology group); study of the cancer cell (Cellular Oncology group); and improvements to the treatment and management of cancer patients (Breast Cancer group).

The vision of the Molecular Oncology group is to understand the function and identity of nucleic acids (RNA/DNA) involved in cáncer, and to exploit this knowledge for the discovery (via high throughput technology) of novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets. They are mainly interested in the role of non-coding (nc)RNA such as microRNAs, and have carried out many pioneering studies on the identity and role of microRNAs abnormally expressed in cancers, with the experts in this unit being internationally recognised in this field. They are particularly active in the liquid biopsy field, including the use of next generation sequencing (NGS) for new biomarker discovery.

Cellular Oncology focuses on the role of the cancer stem cell (CSC), how it can initiate and maintain cancer as well as its role in anti-cancer drug resistance. They are also active in the interaction between cancer and aging at the cellular level. They are particularly focused on brain tumours that are, in general, malignant and have a very poor prognosis.

The Breast Cancer Group develops clinical and translational research projects that contribute to improving the treatment and prognosis of this disease. The translational projects are focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms that favour the progression of breast cancer and resistance to current therapies with a view to designing new and more effective therapeutic strategies. The clinical research part of the group is encompassed within the cooperative group GEICAM (Spanish Breast Cancer Research Group –  www.geicam.org) which enjoys prominent international presence thanks to the development of high-impact clinical trials having led to a change in standard practice.