Two IBEC projects have been granted funding as part of the 2016 CaixaImpulse programme, which is organized by the ”la Caixa” Foundation and Caixa Capital Risc.
Cellular and molecular mechanobiology group leader Pere Roca-Cusachs’ project, “Solid tumor therapy”, and “ISCHEMSURG”, led by Monica Mir, senior researcher in Josep Samiiter’s Nanobioengineering group, will each receive up to €70,000 through this year’s programme, which aims to promote technology transfer in science.
Pere’s project tackles the fact that current cancer treatments often fail in the long run, reducing life expectancy. To solve this problem, there is a pressing need for new treatments that operate through novel mechanisms and that can therefore be used in combination or independently from current approaches.
His project aims to do this by targeting a novel aspect of cancer: tumor stiffness. As exemplified by the hard lumps characteristic of breast cancer, solid tumors of many different origins are systematically stiffer than healthy tissue, and this stiffening per se promotes tumor progression.
“We have identified a family of drugs that inhibits cell response to increased stiffness, and that therefore have a high potential to inhibit tumor growth,” he explains. “Our project will develop these drugs and test their efficacy. If successful, the developed drugs will have therapeutic potential in the treatment of a vast array of solid tumors, including those in the breast, prostate, pancreas, lung, or brain.”
Monica’s project, ISCHEMSURG, addresses tissue ischemia in reparative surgeries. While it’s common to transplant the patient’s own tissue for reconstructive purposes, in many cases, there’s a risk of failure due to inaccurate reconnection to the microvascular system, which causes shortages in blood supply – ischemia – and tissue necrosis. The standard procedure for monitoring these transplants is based on frequent clinical observation, which is useless for buried tissues and doesn’t allow problems to be detected quickly.
ISCHEMSURG will develop a miniaturized electrochemical sensor for the real-time, minimally invasive control of post-operative tissue ischemia. It will be a reliable, cost-affordable and cost-effective technology to answer this unmet need.
“To date, no other such technologies have been successfully implemented on the market, due to either complexity or cost,” says Monica. “ISCHEMSURG will help reduce patient morbidity by early detection of tissue blood shortage, which will help avoid serious health problems as well as reducing hospital costs due to secondary surgeries, and to facilitate the monitoring of patients by caregivers.”
The IBEC projects are two of the 20 winning projects among the 73 proposals received from research centers, hospitals and universities throughout Catalonia.