Where Ideas Grow

Pancreatic cancer research rewarded with a Keystone grant

Researcher Nuno Bastos, from the «Intercellular Communication and Cancer» group, was awarded a Keystone Symposia Future of Science Fund scholarship award for his work in the area of ​​pancreatic cancer, which will allow him to work on identifying a specific population of these patients who may benefit from immunotherapy.

The project with which Nuno Bastos applied for this funding is being developed at i3S within the scope of the Doctoral Program in Pathology and Molecular Genetics, of the Abel Salazar Institute of Biomedical Sciences (ICBAS) and of the Faculty of Medicine of the U.Porto (FMUP), under the guidance of researcher Sónia Melo.

In this project, explains the researcher, “we focused our study on pancreatic cancer, which is one of the most lethal in the world, with a survival of approximately 8% after five years”. Since this type of cancer is characterized by the presence of an extensive extracellular matrix and the cancer cells are dispersed in the tumor mass, “we decided to evaluate the mechanisms of intercellular communication at a distance, namely exosomes, which are small vesicles that cells release to communicate with each other”, adds Nuno Bastos.

Recently the team that Nuno Bastos belongs to found that exosomes release was dependent on a specific protein, Rab27a, which has an anti-inflammatory role and inhibits tumor progression. “We also found that this protein loses expression during tumor progression in human samples, which reveals the crucial role of inflammation in pancreatic cancer”, explains the researcher. These results “allowed us to identify a subgroup of patients characterized by the low expression of this protein that could benefit from immunotherapy”.

The award will allow the researcher to participate in a Keystone conference entitled “Exosomes, Microvesicles and Other Extracellular Vesicles”, which will take place between October 30 and November 3, 2022, in the United States. “It will be a unique opportunity to present my work at a renowned conference and to establish new contacts and partnerships that can be very important to me in the future”.