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Gilead GÉNESE Program recognizes two i3S projects in breast cancer

The Gilead GÉNESE Program funded six research projects in oncology, two of which were led by i3S researchers: “E-MAGIC: ExosoMes-derived rAdioresistance siGnature In breast Cancer”, by Flávia Teixeira Castro and “TaxCODE - Cracking the Cancer Tubulin Code to Tackle Taxane Resistance and Metastasis in Breast Cancer” from Helder Maiato and Sónia Silva.

The project by Flávia Teixeira Castro (from the “Tumor and Microenvironment Interactions” group) focuses on the study of triple negative breast cancer, which represents 10 to 15 percent of breast cancers, being more common in young women. These patients often have disease recurrence after treatment, and it is important to understand the biological mechanisms involved and find new therapeutic targets to improve the treatment of these patients.

With this project the researcher explains that “we intend to clarify mechanisms of therapeutic resistance mediated by extracellular vesicles, to develop new strategies that improve patients’ response to conventional therapies”. In the future, adds Flávia Castro, “our research may also have application in other types of cancer that are also resistant to radiotherapy”.

For the researcher, this award is “hugely important”, as it represents “recognition of the work we have been developing and, above all, demonstrates the importance of this project in advancing research into Breast Cancer”. Furthermore, she adds, “this funding is essential to boost a new project in our research team and will allow access to advanced technologies that would otherwise be more difficult”.

The work that the team has developed, highlights Flávia Castro, “results from the extraordinary collaboration of our group – Tumor and Microenvironment Interactions – with several professionals and institutions, namely, the Centro Hospitalar Universitário São João, the Instituto Português de Oncologia do Porto, and two international institutions: the Gustave Roussy Institute, in Paris and the University of Ghent, in Belgium.

Improving the response to treatments for patients with breast cancer
The project presented by Helder Maiato and Sónia Silva focuses on resistance to therapies, as this continues to be the main factor of mortality in patients with breast cancer. In this project, the leader of the “Chromosome Instability & Dynamics” group highlights that “we will investigate the clinical usefulness resulting from changes in the tubulin code - a structural component of the microtubules that make up the cytoskeleton and which are currently targets of a family of drugs known as taxanes - so that we can predict and improve the response of breast cancer patients to treatments with these medicines”.

Winning this award from Gilead, highlights Helder Maiato, “reinforces a vision that I deeply believe in: we only arrived here, ready to propose a clinical study, after 10 arduous years of investigating the basic mechanisms and without any initial intention of looking for a solution to a problem. It turns out that, once we understood these mechanisms, the possible usefulness became obvious, and we strongly believe that the knowledge we helped generate could make a difference in a large population of cancer patients undergoing treatment with paclitaxel”. This prize, worth 20 thousand euros, “will be an important incentive to achieve this objective”, adds the researcher.

The remaining winning projects in the Oncology research category are led by researchers from the João Lobo Antunes Institute of Molecular Medicine (IMM), one in breast cancer (Karine Serre) and two in lymphoid neoplasms (João Barata and Diogo Silva). In the area of virology research, a project aimed at the epidemiological, clinical and molecular characterization of hepatitis delta in Portugal and another gene therapy work aimed at eliminating latent infected cells were recognized.

In the category "Community Intervention Projects", initiatives were selected in the areas of screening, diagnosis and connection to healthcare in the area of viral hepatitis and HIV infection in vulnerable populations, a space for sharing between peers and support for caregivers of children with cancer, an app aimed at patients and caregivers of people with cancer, and a physical exercise program for breast cancer survivors.

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