An IBEC group’s project was granted funding from the Fundación Científica de la Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer in their 2017 Ayudas LAB AECC call.
Nuria Montserrat’s group will work together with researchers from other Barcelona institutes and one of the city’s major hospitals on the project ‘Generation of Isogenic Models of Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma using CRISPR-engineered Kidney Organoids, for the identification of diagnostic biomarkers’. They will receive support over a three-year period from the AECC Scientific Foundation, whose ‘Ayudas LAB’ funds emerging groups to carry out projects in cancer that have obvious translational possibilities.
The project will develop a human model to study clear cell renal cancer, the most common type of kidney cancer. At present, there are no human models for this cancer, nor for the identification of early biomarkers, which would shed light on the molecular mechanisms of how the cancer starts and allow doctors to diagnose it and start treatments earlier.
To develop the disease model, the IBEC group – together with their collaborators at Vall d’Hebron Institut d’Oncologia, ICO-IDIBELL and Hospital Clinic de Barcelona –
will create a 3D-organoid – a kidney-on-a-chip – from human pluripotent stem cells, which will demonstrate how the tissue in the organ develops, as well as how it reacts when other changes take place, such as disease. Within this model, the researchers will be able use a gene editing method, CRISPR-Cas9, to manipulate those genes related to the appearance of disease and identify possible early signs that cancer might develop.
“The idea is that the model will be able to analysis urine and blood samples from patients, which are easy and painless to obtain, and enable early intervention before the disease develops further,” explains Nuria. “Up till now, the vast majority of cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage and by chance during ultrasound or imaging tests in the abdomen.”
The AECC Scientific Foundation praised the ‘great scientific quality’ of the project, and the ‘extraordinary contribution it can make to the fight against cancer’.