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Mass General Partners with Spanish Institute to Develop Personalized Oncology Drugs

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Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and Spain's Vall d’Hebrón Institute of Oncology said this week that they will partner to develop personalized cancer treatments.

The BBVA Foundation, the scientific funding arm of Spanish financial group Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, has committed $3.4 million (€2.5 million) to fund collaborative biomarker research at the two institutions over the next five years. MGHCC will match the BBVA Foundation’s contribution.

The collaboration, called the Tumor Biomarkers Research Program, will be led by José Baselga and Daniel Haber of MGHCC, and Josep Tabernero of VHIO.

The project aims to discover new individually tailored treatments and use biomarker data to guide treatments to best responder populations.

"Biomarkers can measure alterations of the genome, of the proteins encoded by the genome, and at times enzymes or metabolites," VHIO said in a statement. "The information they give can be prognostic – how the disease is likely to evolve – or predictive – how it may respond to a given treatment."

At first, studies will work on identifying biomarkers implicated in colorectal, breast, and lung cancer. The researchers plan to eventually investigate biomarkers involved in melanomas, lymphomas, and prostate cancer.

Additional objectives of the program include designing protocols for clinical trials that will allow patients to benefit earlier from newly discovered and developing tools to measure patients' responses to targeted cancer drugs.

"The idea is to have clinical trials where patients are recruited not for their type of tumor, as normally occurs, but for the type of molecular or genetic alteration linked to the tumor they are suffering," VHIO said in a statement.

The two institutions will share their genomic, proteomic, and molecular pathology tools for this collaboration. "The agreement also includes an express undertaking by the parties to share their results with the rest of the scientific community and, by this means, hasten their availability to cancer patients," VHIO stated.

BBVA Foundation sees its investment as a move to maintain Spain's leadership position in biomedical research.

"Spain cannot afford to slip behind in an area … where research results can drive tangible improvements in the diagnostic and therapeutic options available to patients," Francisco González, BBVA Foundation president, said in a statement.

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