Translational Medical Oncology Lab


The Laboratory of Translational Medical Oncology, led by Dr. Miguel Abal, the I3SNS researcher of IDIS-SERGAS, is dedicated to the study of the metastatic process as the most important clinical event in oncology. Focusing primarily on the colonisation of circulating tumour cells (CTC) of distal metastases. From the characterisation of CTCs to the remodelling of distal niches, we intend to better understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms that regulate the metastatic process, to obtain the keys that will allow us to stop the spread and colonisation of tumours. Our studies range from the characterization of CTCs to the study of remodelling of distal metastatic niches and receipt of preferentially metastatic cells.

From clear unmet clinical needs, we design and develop research projects to provide solutions that can be translated into clinical practice. M-Trap technology represents an example of this approach: a medical device designed to capture disseminated tumour cells and control the process of metastasis (de la Fuente et al., J Natl Cancer Inst. 2015;107(9)). From pre-clinical proof of concept, we plan to start the trial in patients with advanced ovarian cancer in late 2016. The communication between tumour cells and the environment, in particular the transfer of information through extracellular vesicles (exosomes) and its impact on the effectiveness of the process of metastasis, is also one of the group’s interests.

Molecular characterisation of CTCs also provides a promising clinical tool for monitoring patients in real time. The isolation of CTCs and evaluation of a panel of CTC related genes, before and after a course of chemotherapy, allows assessment of treatment response in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer more efficiently and reliably than currently used imaging techniques (Barbazan et al., Int J Cancer 2014; 135 (11):.2633-43). At present we are expanding this technique for other diagnoses (breast, prostate, lung), and developing a marketable PCR kit (PREDICTC). In addition, with regards to the clinical utility of CTCs, we are active participants in the European network of endometrial cancer, ENITEC, to promote research on CTC in patients with advanced disease (Alonso-Alconada et al., Mol Cancer. 2014; 13:223; Carcinogenesis. 2014; 35(12):2679-86; Int J Cancer. 2015; 136(8):1863-73), and in translating this assessment into clinical practice (Colombo et al., ESMO-ESGO-ESTRO Consensus Conference on Endometrial Cancer: diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Ann Oncol. 2016; 27(1):16-41).


Finally, we are also interested in generating new pre-clinical models that more reliably replicate clinical events associated with the metastasis process. For this reason we are approaching dynamic systems in 3D co-cultures based on microfluids for CTC isolation and monitoring (Nieto et al, Coloides Surf B Biointerfaces 2015; 134:363-9) for research into the interaction between CTC and metastatic niches, and high-throughput screening.



Principal Researcher

Miguel Abal Posada