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CNIO Friends Newsletter 47


Research needs you


Group photo with the Friends of CNIO attending the day together with the centre’s research staff. / Laura M. Lombardía. CNIO.Group photo with the Friends of CNIO attending the day together with the centre’s research staff. / Laura M. Lombardía. CNIO.

Dear CNIO Friends,

One of this term’s most charming moments was the Open Day, which gave us the chance to meet you and thank you for being so generous, to show our labs to you and, most importantly, to introduce you to some of the young researchers who joined the CNIO thanks to our CNIO Friends Programme. Thank you very much for being there, and thanks for your support to the CNIO, which this year has enabled us to offer eight CNIO Friends postdoctoral contracts.

As part of our efforts to keep an open channel to communicate with society, so that the knowledge produced by the scientific community becomes accessible and useful to all, on September 19 we celebrated World Cancer Research Day with a seminar on cancer prevention at CaixaForum Madrid.

Those of our Friends who attended the event must remember what Elisabete Weiderpass, Director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), said about cancer prevention: about half of all cancer cases are preventable by making lifestyle changes.

Smoking causes about 20 percent of all cancers and 80 percent of all lung cancers. Other, lesser-known, risk factors are alcohol consumption, exposure to pollution, obesity and poor eating habits that include too much red meat or processed meat. According to Marina Pollán, Director of the Epidemiology and Public Health Biomedical Network Research Centre (CIBERESP-ISCIII), the increase in the incidence of colorectal cancer is associated with a departure from the Mediterranean diet, rich in vegetables, legumes and nuts.

César López-Palop, Chairman of Domingo Martínez Foundation (FDM), a member of the CNIO Friends initiative, highlighted the importance of sharing the results of cancer research with society.

Now, let’s talk about the latest developments at the CNIO. A drug already used in the treatment of osteoporosis, denosumab, has been found by Eva González Suárez and her team to be effective against resistance to the most effective drug to treat metastatic breast cancer. Also, at the lab directed by Héctor Peinado, they have identified a therapy that could delay the progression of some sarcomas, as well as the tumours caused by the rare disease neurofibromatosis.

The team led by Cristina RodríguezAntona has found an explanation for the survival against all odds of a kidney cancer patient diagnosed fifteen years ago. By analysing this case, they discovered that one of the drugs used to treat renal cell carcinoma had stronger effects because the woman had a very rare protein mutation. This finding could help other patients with similar mutations.

A basic but highly relevant finding – a real paradigm shift – was made by Manuel Valiente in connection with brain metastasis. Dr Valiente discovered that the neurological disorders associated with brain tumours can be, at least in part, the result of the tumour hacking neural circuits. In his research, Dr Valiente used samples from the CNIO biobank, about which you will find more information in this newsletter.

María Casanova-Acebes has been awarded a Starting Grant from the European Research Council to study the relationship between the effectiveness of cancer treatments and the time of day. Applicants included some of the leading cancer research teams in Europe.

Two valuable initiatives have been launched in connection with personalised medicine: a computer platform that links patients’ genomic data to existing drugs and IMPaCT_VUSCan, a project to analyse samples from more than 300 families to find the genetic causes of their increased cancer risk.

As you can see, high-quality cancer research continues to bear fruit, and we are glad to share the fruit with society. Every year, we welcome hundreds of visitors on the European Researchers’ Night. I would like to thank the more than seventy researchers who volunteered this year to show the public how we study cancer.

Last but not least, I would like to thank you, my dear Friends, for your support. Knowing you are by our side is really important.

Sincerely yours,

María A. Blasco


New call for young researchers’ contracts launched by CNIO Friends philanthropic initiative

Thanks to your donations, we have been able to launch a new call of the CNIO Friends Postdoctoral Contract Programme. This year, we are offering eight two-year contracts to researchers who want to carry out their ground-breaking research projects at the CNIO, one of the top cancer research centres in the world.

CNIO Friends contract to study telomeres in order to minimise the skin side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy

Isabel Espejo, PhD in Biomedicine, has joined the CNIO on a CNIO Friends postdoctoral contract funded by La Roche-Posay, L’Oréal’s dermocosmetic brand.

For the next two years, Dr Espejo will be part of the Telomeres and Telomerase Group, led by María A. Blasco, studying the side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy on the skin.

Read more


Global experts in epidemiology warn that rising inequality increases cancer incidence

“Cancer is now the leading cause of death in 57 countries, including Spain and the whole of Europe” and, by the end of this century, “it will be the leading cause of death before the age of 70 at the global level,” said Elisabete Weiderpass, Director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), at “How to Reduce the Risk of Cancer? Prevention through Research”, a seminar organised by the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) on the occasion of World Cancer Research Day.

The event, open to the public and held in the auditorium of CaixaForum Madrid, focused on cancer prevention. Prevention is a particularly important area in connection with cancer. According to data from IARC, the cancer research agency within the World Health Organization (WHO), about half of all cancer cases are due to preventable causes and can therefore be prevented by making lifestyle changes and avoiding carcinogens.

Marina Pollán, Director of the Epidemiology and Public Health Biomedical Network Research Centre (CIBERESP-ISCIII), discussed the situation of cancer and cancer prevention in Spain, while CNIO Director María A. Blasco talked about the most important developments in high-quality cancer research at the CNIO.

Then, Weiderpass, Pollán and Blasco were joined by César López-Palop, Chairman of Domingo Martínez Foundation (FDM), a member of the CNIO Friends philanthropic initiative, in a discussion panel hosted by Spanish journalist Cristina Villanueva, author of the book Desplegando velas.

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An already approved drug could help prevent resistance to the most effective treatment against metastatic breast cancer

The most effective therapy in 70 percent of metastatic breast cancer patients ends up causing resistance, and therefore affecting outcome, in most patients.

An international study with the participation of the CNIO discovered that RANK protein contributes to this resistance and that denosumab, a drug already approved to treat osteoporosis, blocks this protein.

Read more

Kidney cancer patient overcomes several metastases against all expectations. CNIO researchers discover why and pave the way for the treatment of similar cases

Very rare mutations were identified that enhance the impact of the drug temsirolimus. We now know that this and similar drugs are suitable for patients with these mutations.

Read more

Pioneering study finds that brain tumours “hack” communication between neurons

The authors, from CSIC and CNIO, suggest that cognitive impairment in patients with brain metastasis may be due to tumour interference with neural circuits.

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CNIO researcher to study how to improve cancer treatments according to time of day, in a project funded by the European Research Council with 1.5 million euro

CNIO researcher María Casanova-Acebes has been awarded a grant from the European Research Council to discover how to adjust the administration of cancer treatments to the time of day when they prove most effective.

Casanova-Acebes builds upon the finding that tumour cells distort the circadian regulation of the immune system in a way that prevents it from detecting and attacking them.

Read more

The biggest-ever project carried out in Spain to identify genes that raise cancer risk, about to kick off

Up to 300 families in Spain with an unusually high number of cancer cases have contributed samples to IMPaCT_VUSCan. The project will search for the genetic causes of their increased cancer risk. With the information provided by IMPaCT_VUSCan, many people will get to know their genetic predisposition to cancer and be able to enrol in early detection programmes.

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A platform to find the most effective cancer drugs for individual patients helps personalise cancer therapies

PanDrugs2 is a platform that facilitates the interpretation of alterations in tumour genes, relates them to existing drugs, and reports on the most suitable ones. It handles data for about 74,000 drug-gene associations. The platform is expected to make a significant contribution to precision medicine.

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Potential therapy to delay the progression of some sarcomas and tumours of the rare disease neurofibromatosis has been found

Neurofibromatosis is a rare disease that causes hundreds of tumours to form in the body. It affects around 15,000 people in Spain. Research at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) has found a protein that may indicate when the multiple neurofibromatosis tumours become malignant, and explores a potential treatment.

Read more

The body’s most valuable legacy: CNIO Biobank preserves biological samples to transform today’s cancer into tomorrow’s therapies

Biobanks collect and store samples of tissues from tumours, nails or blood, as well as fluids like saliva or matter like faeces. They follow strict ethical standards.

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Our plans for the summer? Give cancer research training to students from Jakarta, Istanbul, Goiás and Valencia

This past summer, the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) offered hands-on experience in cancer research to Ali, Angela, María and Zenith, from Turkey, Indonesia, Spain (Valencia) and Brazil. The four young students were chosen from 230 applicants from all over the world as part of the latest CNIO International Summer Internship Programme.

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Lorenzo Milá focuses on scientific research in his TV show Objetivo Planeta

The renowned journalist Lorenzo Milá visited the CNIO building to show his audience what we do. His show’s episode “CNIO: Excelencia contra el cáncer” (CNIO: Excellence against Cancer) featured interviews with María Blasco, Manuel Valiente, María Casanova-Acebes, Sara García Alonso and Mercedes Robledo. Click here to watch the show.

2023 European Researchers’ Night: huge success online and on site

The European Researchers’ Night is a Europe-wide public event that takes place simultaneously in 350 cities. This year it was held on 29 September. At the CNIO, we organised a number of on-site and online activities – including a first-ever live broadcast on Instagram – that attracted a record-high number of visitors.

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Manuel Valiente wins the Banco Sabadell Foundation Award for Biomedical Research

The award is intended to honour young researchers with an outstanding track record in the fields of biomedicine and health sciences, who carry out innovative research projects.

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Maria A. Blasco gets award at the Smart Woman Forum & Awards

Blasco received the Award for Best Science and Management Director from the Spanish Federation of Healthcare Technology Companies (Fenin), in recognition of her lifetime achievements.

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Marisol Soengas granted Fernández Latorre Award

The 47th Fernández Latorre Award – established in 1959 to honour the founder of La Voz de Galicia, Juan Fernández Latorre – went to Marisol Soengas. Soengas is the Leader of the Melanoma Group at the CNIO (Spanish National Cancer Research Centre).

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Distinguished seminars

Tony Hunter. “A journey from phosphotyrosine to phosphohistidine and what it has revealed about cancer mechanisms”.


Jody Rosenblatt. Misregulation of cell extrusion in cancer and how to reverse it”.

For more info on our events, please go to CNIO Events

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