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03/09/2020

A research project developed at Sant Joan de Déu has been chosen as the most important of 2019 in Spain

The researcher Angel Montero Carcaboso, based at the Sant Joan de Déu Research Institute, has won the Vanguardia de la Ciencia 2019 Award for the development of a new treatment for children's retinal cancer, retinoblastoma.

At the beginning of 2019 an international team of researchers led by Montero Carcaboso and other professionals from the Sant Joan de Déu Research Institute and the SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital published the first results of a new therapeutic strategy for retinoblastoma in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The first author of the work, Guillem Pascual-Pastó, had previously received the 2018 Schweisguth Award from the International Society of Pediatric Oncology for this research.

The therapy consists of injecting a genetically modified virus, developed by Ramón Alemany and Manel Cascalló at the Catalan Institute of Oncology and the biotechnology company VCN Biosciences, into the eye affected by the tumor. This virus selects, attacks and destroys cancer cells, and is applied to those children with tumors that no longer respond to the usual treatment.

Every year 8,000 cases of retinoblastoma are diagnosed worldwide. This new therapy will be applied to the most aggressive retinoblastomas, which represent approximately 30% of cases. In these children, the tumor does not respond to chemotherapy and ophthalmologists must remove the affected eye to prevent cancer from spreading to other organs. With this new therapy, whose clinical phase is led by oncologist Guillermo Chantada and ophthalmologist Jaume Català, the goal is to avoid ocular removal and reduce cases of blindness in patients with retinoblastoma.

This research work was the most highly valued among a total of eight contending papers selected by a scientific committee from Spanish scientific journals published in 2019. Both the expert evaluation committee of the prize and the readers placed Montero Carcaboso's work in first position. It obtained a final weighted vote of 31%.

The Vanguardia de la Ciencia prize is a joint initiative promoted by the newspaper La Vanguardia and the Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera. Its goal is to draw attention to the research of excellence carried out in Spain. The winning work is determined by the assessments of a multidisciplinary committee and the votes of the readers of La Vanguardia; the final score is obtained by balancing the two results at 50%.