Breast cancer

Group co-leader: Isabel Álvarez, M.D.

Donostialdea IHO E-mail

Group co-leader: María Muñoz Caffarel, PhD.

Biodonostia HRI E-mail
Dr. Isabel Manuela Álvarez López has a Degree in Medicine and Surgery obtained at the University of Navarra in 1985 and has been a Specialist in Medical Oncology since 1989. An Attending Physician since 1990 with the Medical Oncology Unit of Donostia University Hospital (Donostialdea IHO) (she currently works in the Gipuzkoa Cancer Management Unit run by Osakidetza-SVS jointly with Onkologikoa). She has fundamentally developed her activity in the Breast Cancer Area. Founding member of the Cooperative Research Group in Breast Cancer (GEICAM) and member of its Board of Directors. Leader of the Breast Cancer Group at the Biodonostia HRI since 2021 and, since 2020, shares joint leadership of the Group with Dr. María Muñoz Caffarel. She has participated in more than 30 clinical trials on multicentric breast cancer, both in collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry and in academic studies. She has more than 30 publications related to breast cancer. In the Research Group, as well as clinical trials, work is underway on the areas of tumour heterogeneity, hormone sensitivity and inflammation in breast cancer (studies funded in public calls) Dr. María Muñoz Caffarel is an Ikerbasque Research Associate and Miguel Servet Researcher at the Biodonostia HRI, where she is Co-Leader of the Breast Cancer Research Group within the Oncology Area. She has a Degree in Biochemistry (National Award) from the UCM (Madrid), where she completed her PhD in 2008. She has more than 5 years’ international experience at the University of Cambridge (UK), as well as having spent study periods at the Curie Institute (France), CNIO and IDIBELL (Spain). Since she joined the Biodonostia HRI in 2015, she has obtained more than €1 million as a Principal Researcher in public and private calls at regional, state and international level. She is the author of 28 scientific articles, 3 book chapters and the co-inventor of one patent; her publications have been highly cited (h-index of 17 > 1400 citations). She has directed two doctoral theses and is currently directing another 3. She is a Guest Professor on three master’s degrees (UPV/EHU and UFV) and member of the Board of Directors of ASEICA (Spanish Association for Cancer Research), where she coordinates the ASEICA-Youth work group. She is also President of the Biodonostia HRI Equality Committee and participates in other activities related to women and science. She similarly participates in dissemination activities, giving talks to associations of cancer patients and to the general public (Pint of Science, Donostia WEEK-INN).

Strategic Objectives

  • To contribute to the development of programmes which optimise a personalised approach to the treatment of breast cancer patients, taking into account the specific characteristics of both the tumour and the cancer patient.
  • Clinical research: To continue and promote the creation of clinical trials to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies, and more specifically studies into new drugs.
  • Developing new programmes for translational research, either as independent studies or as studies in parallel to or associated with clinical trials. The goal is to develop and implement new molecular techniques that may be diagnostically and predictively relevant to the optimisation of treatments suitable to each molecular subtype.
  • Development of studies in the areas of epidemiology and the follow-up of breast cancer patients.

Main lines of research

  • Study of the presence and prognostic significance of status heterogeneity in the receptors between the primary tumour and the synchronous lymph node metastasis in hormone receptor-positive breast cancers.
  • Circulating tumoural stem cells in breast cancer.
  • Comparison between the clinical-pathological features of interval breast cancers (IC) and those detected in the programmed screening among the participants in the Basque Health Service’s breast cancer detection programme.
  • Use of next-generation sequencing technology to analyse genetic differences between the primary tumour and metastatic sites.
  • Identification and validation of circulating miRNA/RNA as non-invasive markers for breast cancer.
  • Use of shRNA/miRNA coding viral libraries in order to identify factors of resistance to drugs and new therapies in breast cancer.

Team Members

Name Surname Center E-mail
Andrea Abaurrea Larrañaga Biodonostia HRI
Luis Alberto Alvarez Cuesta Onkologikoa Fundazioa
Nerea Ancizar Lizarraga Donostialdea IHO
Haritz Arrieta Etxeberria Onkologikoa Fundazioa
Peio Azcoaga Azcoaga Biodonostia HRI
María Cristina Churruca Galaz Donostialdea IHO
María Díez Zubizarreta Donostialdea IHO
Marta Fernández Calleja Donostialdea IHO
Elena Guimón Olaizola Donostialdea IHO
Joanna Ines López Velazco Biodonostia HRI joannaines.ló
Ainhara Lahuerta Martínez Onkologikoa Fundazioa
Ana Paisán Ruiz Donostialdea IHO
Marta Rezola Bajineta Donostialdea IHO
Jose María Urraca De La Serna Donostialdea IHO
Ander Urruticoechea Ribate Onkologikoa Fundazioa


Scientific Output


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