BSC, CNIO and Lilly collaborate to advance our knowledge of pancreatic cancer

05 March 2024

Discovering the causes of the tumour, identifying markers that help predict which patients may respond to current treatments and favouring new therapies are the objectives of this research project, which is expected to last three years

The Barcelona Supercomputing Center - Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS) has signed a collaboration agreement with the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncológicas (CNIO) and Lilly Spain's R&D centre to deepen our understanding of pancreatic cancer, the third most deadly cancer in Spain according to data from the Sociedad Española de Oncología Médica (SEOM).

This project, which will strengthen the multidisciplinary approach to the disease for three years and will have a budget of one million euros, is part of the public-private collaboration agreements of the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities and the European recovery funds. Specifically, the research aims to find the causes responsible for pancreatic cancer, identify markers to predict those patients who may respond to current treatments and promote new therapies.

The initiative gives a prominent role to artificial intelligence and advanced computational models. For this reason, it will be supported by the group of Dr. Alfonso Valencia, ICREA professor and director of the Department of Life Sciences at the BSC, one of the world's leading centres in the application of advanced computational models in personalised medicine.

"Artificial intelligence algorithms allow us to identify specific biomarkers indicative of treatment response or prognosis in pancreatic cancer. This technology will certainly be useful in the identification of new therapeutic targets and in the continuous improvement of personalised approaches," says Dr. Valencia.

The CNIO, an international benchmark in the identification of the genetic causes of cancer, will work towards a better understanding of the disease through genetic models. Professor Mariano Barbacid, head of the Experimental Oncology Group at the centre, explains: "A better understanding of the influence of different genetic variables on the risk of pancreatic cancer will allow us to improve diagnosis and prevention. It is a matter of promoting personalised medicine in a type of tumour that currently has no effective therapeutic options, so the challenge is enormous from the point of view of preclinical research.

For Juan Velasco, scientific director of Lilly's R&D centre in Spain, this research initiative requires a great deal of coordination between all the bodies involved through exhaustive networking which will pave the way towards an improved approach to pancreatic cancer: "For our company it is very satisfying and exciting to be part of a research project which could increase the options for improving the quality of life and increasing the survival of patients with this devastating disease".