Where Ideas Grow

Project on gastric cancer wins award

Researcher Henrique Duarte, from the “Glycobiology in Cancer” group, was the winner of the third edition of the Francisco Augusto da Fonseca Dias and Maria José Melenas da Fonseca Dias Prize for Young Researchers, with a prize of 50 thousand euros. The project aims to identify new molecular markers of prognosis in patients with advanced stomach cancer and understand if these markers can indicate how patients will react to one of the main existing therapies.

The jury, consisting of Manuel Sobrinho Simões, president of Ipatimup, Mário Dinis Ribeiro, visiting full professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto, and José de Almeida Vicente, researcher at the Institute of Plasmas and Nuclear Fusion of the Instituto Superior Técnico, highlighted the “quality of the project” and the “potential of application in products or processes intended for the diagnosis, prognosis, treatment or prevention of cancerous or precancerous diseases”.

The research team that Henrique Duarte is part of recently discovered a molecular mechanism through which glycans (sugar chains present in cells) confer resistance to a therapeutic antibody. The identification of this mechanism explains the resistance of some patients with gastric cancer to this agent, which represents one of the few personalized therapies approved for the treatment of patients with stage IV gastric cancer (advanced and with metastases) positive for the ErbB2 oncogene receptor (approximately 10-15% of stomach cancer cases). Based on this discovery, the researcher now intends to find new prognostic markers in patients with stomach cancer and to predict the survival or clinical evolution of these patients.

Called LOGIC - “Glycoform-Specific Detection of ErbB2 in Gastric Cancer: Improving Patient Stratification and Redefining Eligibility for Anti-ErbB2 Targeted Therapy”, the project also aims to “identify if these same molecular markers can predict if patients with cancer of the ErbB2-positive stomach will benefit from therapy with this antibody”. “If we know that, we can better stratify patients and ensure optimal resource allocation”. For researcher Henrique Duarte, having won this award represents an “honor and pride”. “Since I was very young, I have dreamed of working in the field of oncology research, more specifically at Ipatimup (now integrated in i3S) which is recognized worldwide”. In addition, he adds, “receiving this award shortly after completing my PhD is a huge source of recognition, but mainly of motivation for us to continue working towards improving the quality of life of patients affected by this terrible disease”.

The project, led by Henrique Duarte, will be implemented in the “Glycobiology in Cancer” group, by a multidisciplinary team, which also includes the group leader Celso Reis and Joana Gomes. The project also has the active participation of the São João University Hospital Center, Porto University Hospital Center and IPO-Porto.

The Francisco Augusto da Fonseca Dias and Maria José Melenas da Fonseca Dias Award for Young Researchers is the result of the legacy of Mrs. Maria José Alves Melenas Dias to Ipatimup, with the aim of supporting scientific research in Cancer and Pre-Cancerous Diseases.