Gene Therapy and Cancer

REF: PD 36
Principle investigator:
Cristina Fillat
Contact details:



Research framework

Oncolytic adenoviruses offer a unique opportunity to treat cancer with a cytotoxic agent that amplifies itself in tumors. Our group has already demonstrated the potential of some of these viruses to act against pancreatic cancer in mouse models. Currently the group is actively working on the design of more selective viruses to target malignant cells in pancreatic cancer. Our group has also major interest in understanding the molecular mechanisms that control cell/virus interactions to produce maximally effective tumor cell killing. A typical feature of the most common and aggressive form of pancreatic cancer, the pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is the presence of abundant desmoplasia. Current evidences outline the contribution of the stroma to multiple aspects of pancreatic cancer and their influence to the poor response to therapies. The present project aims to understand the relationship of the virus with the tumor microenvironment to enable for the design of strategies with increased therapeutic index.

The project will require the use of molecular and cell biology techniques for viral development. Studies in experimental mouse models of pancreatic cancer will be at the core of the project.

The group has more than 15 years of experience with significant contributions summarized in more than 60 publications. Few recent publications are: (Cancer Lett. 2012, Mol.Cancer Ther. 2011, Gene Ther. 2011, PLoS One 2011, BBA Mol.Cell. Res. 2010, Neplasia 2009, FASEB J. 2009) The group integrates in a multidisciplinary team of leading scientists in the field of gastrointestinal and pancreatic oncology at the IDIBAPS and has strong collaborations with Spanish and European groups, participating in a European Network of Pancreatic Cancer.

Our group has a broad experience on the design and generation of engineered-viruses and in the development of mouse models of pancreatic tumorigenesis. Moreover the group has established expertise on in-vivo imaging techniques to follow-up tumor progression, metastatic processes and response to treatment.


pancreatic cancer, oncolytic adenovirus, tumor stroma

Main Challenges

The proposed project aims to investigate the relationship of oncolytic adenoviruses with the complexity of the tumor stroma, understanding virus/cell interactions and the mechanisms of viral lysis operating in the different cellular components. Moreover it will study the relationship between the amount and composition of the stroma with the capacity of virus penetration in pancreatic tumors. Strategies to facilitate viral distribution into the tumor to increase their therapeutic index will be developed.

The candidate should have the ability to work independently, and contribute to the design and running of the experiments.

The candidate should have the capacity to write up the results of their work and prepare presentations to the scientific community.

The candidate should have the ability to work in a project on the bases of a team-effort. Strong background on molecular biology and pathology will be appreciated.

Team strategic objective in IDIBAPS

Our research focuses on the study of the molecular and cellular basis of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and the development of novel experimental therapies based on gene transfer and virotherapy.

(Read eligibility criteria)