A consortium led by the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre's researcher María S. Soengas −Programme Director of the Centre´s Molecular Pathology Programme and Leader of the CNIO Melanoma Group− has been selected to receive funding from the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA), the most important private international melanoma research foundation, in order to advance research in melanoma; this type of skin tumour represents one of oncology's biggest challenges due to its high incidence and malignancy.
The main goals of the project, which has been awarded $900,000, are aimed at generating molecular tools and validating new compounds that block the formation of lymphatic vessels, one of the main routes that cancer cells use to conquer new organs and generate metastasis.
To this end, Soengas will coordinate the work of world-leading researchers in the fields of oncology, pathology, dermatology, medical chemistry or tumour spectrometry, from institutions such as the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Munich, the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris, Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich or the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.
According to Soengas, for decades, the prognosis for patients with melanoma has been largely defined by the presence or absence of tumour cells in the lymph nodes adjacent to the tumour. "Up until now, however, we have not been able to detect the activation of the lymphatic vessels (lymphangiogenesis) before melanoma cells disseminate through the organism", she adds.
This project seeks to provide a solution to this problem, in addition to validating efficient anti-metastatic drugs. "We have generated the first melanoma models to visualise the activation of lymphangiogenesis in vivo. These models will also allow us to carry out pharmacological studies to determine the efficiency and stability of new anti-metastatic therapies", says CNIO researcher.
Furthermore, researchers will study several drugs under clinical development, as well as nanoparticles discovered by CNIO that have led to the creation of Bioncotech Therapeutics, a CNIO spin-off dedicated to anti-cancer therapies.
With the current round of funding of $9.6 million, this award brings the total awarded by MRA in its 6-year history to almost $48 million, destined to promoting multidisciplinary research to improve the treatment of patients with melanoma.