Cancer Cell Biology Programme

Epithelial Carcinogenesis Group

Group Leader:  Francisco Real

We focus on the molecular pathophysiology of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) and urothelial carcinoma (UC), with a disease-oriented approach. We use patient samples, cultured cells, and genetically modified mice, giving a similar weight to the 3 model systems. Primary observations made at either of these levels are then extended through additional work. To translate the findings, we bring this knowledge to a ‘population’ level, leveraging on information and samples from large patient cohorts.

In PDAC, a main hypothesis is that cell differentiation is a potent tumour suppressor mechanism acting early during carcinogenesis. We use the excellent genetic mouse models that are available because these processes cannot be readily studied using human samples. PDAC can originate both in pancreatic progenitors and in acinar cells. Understanding the contribution of early molecular events is crucial in order to design better strategies for early tumour detection and prevention in subjects at risk.

In UC, we focus on identifying new genes, using them for improved tumour taxonomy, characterising the mechanisms of action, and applying this knowledge for improved prediction of outcome and therapy.