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27 June 2013

The 3rd Can Ruti Symposium declared a big success

Seven institutions collaborate for the 3rd edition


The 3rd Can Ruti Symposium took place on Thursday 27 June at the IGTP, organized by Dr. Manel Puig, director of the IGTP and Dr. Marcus Buschbeck for the IMPPC was well attended. Seven centers from the campus took part: the HUGTiP, the IGTP, the IMPPC, the Guttmann Institute, the IJC, the IrsiCaixa and the ICO.

Dr Puig opened the event with a call to researchers and clinicians to actively seek out more joint projects, which he is convinced are the key to future success on the campus. He then opened the meeting, which featured presentations on topics ranging from clinical research to bioinformatics and molecular biology tools.

Dr Rafael Rosell, Head of the Medical Oncology Department at the hospital and the ICO told the researchers and clinicians from all seven centers how the current clinical guidelines do not take into account the molecular changes taking place inside tumors. He described studies being carried out in his department where the specific mutations are identified; this allows the application of more targeted therapies and leads to higher survival rates.

From the IMPPC Dr.Tanya Vavouri explained how bioinformatics techniques can be applied to biological data. She gave a quick tour of her work, which seeks to find the mechanisms behind epigenetic inheritance in which lifestyle effects, such as diet, are passed onto to future generations. This type of inheritance, once considered to be impossible, has recently been shown to take place in studies on in mice or the worm C. elegans, epidemiological studies also support it taking place in humans. Dr Vavouri's work uses computational techniques to analyze the molecular structures in spermatozoa in order to tease out how information is passed on in other ways than by genes themselves.

Dr. Nuria Izquierdo of the IrsiCaixa, Aids Research Center gave a brilliant explanation of a series of experiments to identify the protein Siglec-1 as key player in the process whereby HIV travels from dendritic cells to infect other cells in the body. This work aims to identify new targets for future AIDs treatments; these are desperately needed given the complexity of attacking the virus directly.

For the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute (IJC) Dr. Eulàlia Genescà outlined the work her new group will be carrying out in the institute. Dr. Genescà works in tandem with Dr. J.M. Ribera (ICO; HUGTiP) and the group will collect samples from patients with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukema (ALL) in order to carry out research into this disease. One of the biggest questions to answer in this field is how to identify at the first diagnosis the particular cells which go on to become malignant when patients who have been treated successfully later relapse. These cells are not the most frequent clones in the blood at first diagnosis, but when treatment has destroyed the initial leukemic cells a second clone often becomes malignant causing the relapse. Being able to identify these clones at the first diagnosis would make treatments more effective, longer lasting and more efficient.

This is the first time the Guttmann Institute has participated in the campus symposiums. Dr. Eloy Opisso explained the main research lines of the institute, centered on two main programs: spinal injury and acquired brain injury. Work at the Guttmann addresses many aspects of treatment for patients with neural damage, encompassing a wide variety of specialties from surgery to robotics. Recently more and more focus is being placed on monitoring and evaluation as well as the therapy itself. Dr Opisso explained how researchers would like one day to be able to use chemical or genetic markers to help with prognosis and the management of therapies.

Dr. Marcus Buschbeck outlined the projects being carried out by his group at the IMPPC. The group uses molecular and bioinformatics techniques to describe the effects of changes in the chromatin, the three-dimensional structure formed by DNA and the proteins surrounding it. These mechanisms are essential for the normal processes of cell differentiation and alterations in them are implicated in many pathologies.

For the ICO Dr. Eva Martínez Balibrea described her work on genotyping patients with colorectal cancer. This is currently not done as part of standard clinical procedure, although Dr Martínez Balibrea's studies show that the tests allow doctors to identify the mutations present in the tumors and use the therapies specific to this variant of the disease, which increases the efficiency of treatments and avoids many side effects, which are unpleasant and in a few cases fatal. The group also carries out studies into the mechanisms behind resistance to chemotherapy, with a view to reversing it and making therapies that have become ineffective effective again.

Dr. Mireia Jordà of the Epigenetic Mechanisms of Cancer and Cell Differentiation Group led by Dr. Miguel Angel Peinado at the IMPPC explained how molecular and computational techniques were being applied to thyroid cancer. The group works with several other groups, including one at the IGTP and the hospital, to identify diagnostic and prognostic markers in this type of cancer by studying methylation of DNA in samples from patients. Again this type of analysis is proving that identification of the mechanism behind the cancer allows for much more accurate and effective treatment.

The last talk was given by Dr. Mª Rosa Sarrias from the IGTP who works on using the protein AIM (an inhibitor of apoptosis in macrophages) in the plasma of patients as a biomarker. This has implications for several diseases, specifically athersclerosis (also called arteriosclerotic vascular disease or ASVD), a common long term and progressive disease that leads to blocked arteries. It is also relevant for tuberculosis (TB) caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The work paves the way for possible simple future blood tests for these frequent and life-threatening diseases.

The symposium was closed by Dr. Jaume Canet, Head of Anaesthetics at the hospital speaking on behalf of the Management Board of the HUGTiP. Dr Canet stressed the need to improve the pipeline from basic research to translational research and praised the examples already taking place in the hospital. He encouraged everybody who is maintaining the research effort despite the very difficult situation in Spain and underlined the full support of the management of the hospital for research and their conviction that it is essential to carry out research on the campus.
 

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