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i3S colon cancer project awarded by NanoString

Researcher Ângela Amorim Costa, from the group Tumor Microenvironment Interactions, was one of four people recognized by the company NanoString through its scholarship program, in the first edition of the prize in cell signaling in tumors. Researchers from the Pasteur Institute, the University of Manchester, and the Cancer Center in Amsterdam were also distinguished.

The objective of the project called “The impact of hypoxia on the anti-colon cancer immune response: potential implications to immunotherapy” is to understand more about colon cancer and the low levels of oxygen (hypoxia) that normally occur in solid tumors, model the immune system in the tumor microenvironment, and understand which molecular mechanisms are associated with the tumor. This knowledge can open doors for the design of alternative and more efficient therapies for tumors that do not respond to traditional treatments.

“According to preliminary data that we have already obtained”, says the researcher, “we know that hypoxia affects both cancer cells and immune cells, conditioning the anti-tumor immune response, and that this has an impact on the response to therapy”. In other words, she adds, “any difference found underlines the urgent need to take into account the specificities of the tumor microenvironment, when the intention is to find more efficient therapies”. The researcher believes that these differences result from the colon cancer microenvironment and that it is essential to study them in order to discover effective therapies.

Amorim Costa explains that she intends to follow “an unexplored perspective and analyze the combined influence of hypoxia and immune cells, two crucial components of the tumor microenvironment”. This knowledge, explains the researcher, can “help us find biomarkers of response to therapy, allowing patients to stratify and, ultimately, arrive at more effective anti-cancer therapy”.

This recognition by the company NanoString means the possibility of using cutting edge technology in cell biology and will allow the researcher to continue studies on the influence of hypoxia on the modeling of the tumor microenvironment in colon cancer, allowing the opening of new lines of investigation.