2012 Scientific Report

VHIO's Translational Research Model/

Two key factors enable VHIO to do one of the things that it does best, namely, translate research findings for the benefit of patients in record time.

First, its purely translational, multidisciplinary research model facilitates the detailed study of each patient and each tumor which in turn, enables us to apply discovery from the laboratory to patients and from the clinical side, tumor samples are analyzed in the laboratory.

Organised into four main programs -- Preclinical, Translational, Clinical, and Core Technologies, research at VHIO focuses on understanding the fundamental biology of human cancer from cellular and molecular biology and genetics through to therapeutics, in order to address the many unresolved questions in ultimately combating this multifaceted, heterogeneous and highly complex disease (see VHIO’s Organigram below).

It’s not only about the research. While VHIO continues to significantly contribute to important advances in cancer science and medicine (click here for VHIO’s full list of publications in 2012, and an overview of Scientific Productivity as well as selected articles), it does so largely thanks to its setting. Located within the heart of the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital, VHIO benefits immensely from direct access to patients as well as the entire spectrum of oncology professionals who care for them. VHO is organized into multidisciplinary, integrated teams whereby our researchers can closely collaborate and interact with Vall d’Hebron physician-scientists. Translational science and clinical research are there tightly connected, accelerating the bench-bedside-bed virtuous cycle of knowledge.

The Vall d’Hebron University Hospital: an ideal base and environment for VHIO’s multidisciplinary cancer teams.

As discussed in the Foreword to this Scientific Report, we are now facing an exciting new ‘post-personalized’ era. As we begin to see the tremendous milestones marked over the last decade reap reward, whereby tailoring treatments based on characteristics of patient’s individual tumors is becoming part of daily clinical practice, we still have a long way to travel.

Simply put, we must cover the remaining distance by making personalized medicine more precise. Only then will we succeed in expanding more targeted treatment options for an increasing number of cancer patients, providing the right treatment at the right dose, at the right time. VHIO can only deliver this next step through the continued public funding it receives as well as the generous support from our patrons, private institutions, companies, individuals, funding entities and agencies (please click here for further details).

Poised for Precision Oncology/

VHIO’s Organigram 2012

VHIO provides the optimal organizational structure allowing researchers contact with cancer patients using the most advanced technologies and interaction between specialties.

In 2012 VHIO incorporated a new Translational Genomics Group. Joining VHIO’s Cancer Genomics, Molecular Oncology, and Proteomics Groups, as part of our Core Technology Program, the group is responsible for the implementation and development of the nCounter Nanostring platform and also functions as a scientific dependence group, leading and developing independent research lines.

VHIO: the ‘Omic’ Era and Beyond

At VHIO, thanks to our suite of cutting-edge technology platforms as well as the talents who not only implement and provide these services, but also develop them, we are not only applying next-generation genome sequencing to identify novel cancer mutations but also starting to see it applied to individual patients to guide treatment decisions.

2012 has chaptered essential developments which will undoubtedly help VHIO deliver on making the personalized approach to cancer medicine more precise:

First, joining VHIO’s genotyping platform (MassARRAY, Sequenom) and next- generation sequencer HiSeq2000, the MiSeq sequencing system (Illumina) was implemented by our Cancer Genomics Group, which will significantly accelerate results at increasingly lower costs in patient screening. VHIO’s ‘omics’ will be progressively brought to the clinical setting whereby tumor genomic analysis will be used to steer cancer treatment and management decisions for an increasing number of patients.

MiSeq sequencing system (Illumina).

Another key development in 2012 has been the incorporation of the Translational Genomics Group and with it, the implementation of the nCounter Nanostring platform. The integration of such technology promises faster, more efficient generation of gene expression data to better characterize different cancer types. Flanking the efforts of VHIO’s Cancer Genomics Group, we will be able to increasingly use genomic data to better guide clinical trial design and biomarker development and indentify optimal treatment regimens for cancer patients.

The nCounter Nanostring Platform of VHIO’s recently incorporated Translational Genomics Group.

Clinical Trials at VHIO

VHIO has increasingly established itself as a leading reference in drug discovery from concept to clinic by driving drug development and targeted therapies against cancer:

Research Unit for Molecular Therapies of Cancer (UITM) - ”la Caixa”: fighting cancer’s biology, one patient at a time

Directed by Josep Tabernero, under the clinical coordination of Jordi Rodón, the Research Unit for Molecular Therapy of Cancer (UITM) - ”la Caixa” was inaugurated in June 2010 thanks to the support received from the Welfare Projects Division of ”la Caixa” Foundation in order to develop new drugs based on the molecular profile of each tumor and optimize treatment regimes using combinations of new drugs with existing ones.

This Unit, a pioneering project at national level, also benefits from the same privileged environment enjoyed by VHIO; located in the patient care environment of the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital and set within the research context. This excellent bridging and tight connectivity between health care and research enables us to establish new treatment models for patients with highly selective drugs, expanding the knowledge of tumor diseases and how to treat them in an individualized way - getting the right drug to the right patient at the right time. In just two years since it was inaugurated, among many other successes, through the research carried out by VHIO’s Early Clinical Drug Development Group, the Unit has firmly established itself as a leading reference with the most expertise in various areas of drug development including P13K/akt/mTOR inhibitors, FGFR inhibitors or drugs targeting developmental pathways such as TGF beta, SHH, Wnt and Notch.

Thanks to the Unit’s outstanding facilities coupled with the excellent multidisciplinary clinical teams of professionals, 2012 witnessed a further increase in Phase I trials numbering at 66 and enrolling a total of almost 300 patients. While we continue to expand our portfolio of Phase I trials, adding new targeted therapies against novel, promising targeted therapies and best-in-class therapies, the new technology platforms that have been recently implemented by VHIO’s Cancer Genomics and Translational Cancer Genomics groups - the MiSeq sequencing system and nCounter Nanostring platform respectively, will drive faster and more precise mutational analysis of tumor-suppressor genes as well as translocations and gene amplifications.

To discover more please click here.

Clinical Trials Office

Established in 1997, the Clinical Trials Office at the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital coordinates studies from Phase I to Phase III and is organized in three separate teams: Phase I, Breast Cancer, and Phase II - III. Thanks to the dedication and drive of more than 30 professionals including study coordinators, data managers and administrative staff, this Office reports exciting growth in both the number of patients enrolled in trials as well as trials conducted each year. 2012 continues the trend - totaling 219 Phase I - II - III trials with 719 patients recruited.

To consult the full list of highlights and a summary of activity in 2012 click here.

The CELLEX Building: Set to Spur Even Faster Exchange of Ideas and Results

As envisaged, 2012 has quite literally laid the foundations for VHIO’s new home: the CELLEX building. In the space of just one year since we compiled our 2011 Scientific Report, we can now publish a real image of the building under construction, as opposed to a virtual depiction.

Marking an exciting new era towards precision oncology, the final completion of the CELLEX building (scheduled for the end of 2013), will not only provide VHIO with the space it desperately requires to be able to expand its programs and activities, but will also bring all our multidisciplinary teams together under the same roof to yet further promote multidisciplinary cross-talk and connectivity between our researchers and physician-scientists.

The CELLEX building: bringing VHIO’s multidisciplinary teams together under the same roof to further accelerate our translational research for tomorrow’s targeted therapy.

Discovery, Debate and Exchange of the Highest Degree/

VHIO Publications 2012

As a relatively young Institute established in 2006, the rapid expansion of our facilities coupled with attracting the very best talents from ‘home’ and abroad to work with us at VHIO, have resulted in our increased scientific productivity and Median Impact Factor each and every year (click here for the full list of publications in 2012).

Thanks to the efforts and drive of our preclinical, translational and clinical researchers as corresponding/ senior or co-authors, we can report 135 published papers with a Median Factor of 10.07 for 2012.

Statistics aside, as a community, we do what we do with one common aim in mind: improve outcomes for our cancer patients, now and in the future. VHIO will determinately continue to play a significant role in advancing scientific discovery to progress against cancer.


As highlighted in the Foreword to this Scientific Report, we can only hope to accelerate discovery and thus improved cancer treatment and care in collaboration. Cross-border exchange of data and ideas will not only avoid duplication of efforts but spur advancements during these increasingly difficult and challenging economic times.

In 2012, VHIO has participated in the following international consortia of excellence:

Rational Therapy for Breast Cancer (RATHER) - supported by the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme of Research and Development.

Initiated in January 2011, RATHER is a 5-year consortium project focusing on several key aspects of breast cancer research, and involves the combined efforts of six research institutions including VHIO and two biomedical companies.

The project aims to deliver on proof-of-concept for novel therapeutic interventions, together with matched molecular diagnostic approaches for improved patient stratification.

For more information please visit: www.ratherproject.com

A European Platform for Translational Cancer Research (Eurocan Platform) - supported by the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme of Research and Development.

EurocanPlatform comprises 28 European leading cancer Institutions and organizations including VHIO, working together as a unique collaboration. The participating centers share infrastructures and collaborate on projects to help advance cancer research and treatment.

More specifically, the project focuses on three key areas of research: prevention, early detection, and improved treatments. It will ultimately facilitate the necessary resources and know-how to advance cancer care from bench-bedside-bed, covering all levels from preclinical, early-to-late translational, clinical, epidemiological, implementation in care, and population-based outcome research.

Find out more here: http://eurocanplatform.eu/

Colon Therapy Research Consortium (COLTHERES) - funded by the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme of Research and Development.

COLTHERES is a unique consortium of European clinical research centers of excellence including VHIO, as well as translational researchers who have received core funding from the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme of Research and Development to define and perform biomarker-driven clinical trials to improve cancer therapy outcomes.

This is a 4-year program that uses comprehensively molecularly-annotated colon cancers as a ‘test-bed’ to define specific biomarkers of response or resistance to signaling pathway agents. Efforts focus on identifying validated risk and patient response stratification criteria which can then be used to rationally develop companion diagnostic assays and more stream-lined clinical trials.

To discover more about this project visit: www.coltheres.eu

Worldwide Innovative Networking in personalized cancer medicine (WIN) - initiated by the Institut Gustave Roussy [France] and The University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center [USA].

WIN, Worldwide Innovative Networking in personalized cancer medicine, is a non profit, non-governmental organization that brings together 22 cancer centers including VHIO and industry partners from five continents to address the challenge of increasing the efficacy of cancer diagnostics and therapeutics.

Its mission is to rapidly translate ground-breaking, early diagnostic and personalized cancer medicine discovery into a clinical reality for cancer patients. More specifically, dedicated efforts will aim at generating the first, relevant clinical study data within the ambitious time frame of between 3-5 years, identifying new biomarkers and develop standardized kits useful for improved cancer care.

A major development in 2012 has been WIN’s launch of a unique academic and international clinical trial - WINTHER. Representing a major step forward in the evaluation of precision treatments, this trial will demonstrate the validity of the biological approach in oncology. VHIO will join the other trial partners to collectively develop a comprehensive analysis of the genetic background of tumors in order to predict drug sensitivity adopting powerful bioinformatics tools, and optimize individualized therapeutic decisions with improved clinical outcome for patients.

Detailed information can be found at: www.winconsortium.org

VHIO events

VHIO Meet the Editors

Launched with Nature journal’s Senior Editor, cancer research, Barbara Marte on Inside Nature in October 2011, our 2012 annual series of VHIO Meet the Editors prestigious talks provided oncology professionals of research institutes of excellence in Barcelona with unique opportunity to learn more about scientific publishing and cancer research and put questions and comments to the editors directly during the Q & A with the audience. They also provided a rare opportunity to get to know the editors of the highest impact factor journals personally.

VHIO’s Meet the Editors in 2012

Speaker: Paula Kiberstis, Senior Editor, cancer research
Talk: Demystifying Science
Date: 23 January 2012

Synopsis: Marking the second in the prestigious series of talks: VHIO Meet the Editors, Science’s Paula Kiberstis, Senior Editor, cancer research, delivered a highly insightful presentation on Demystifying Science. More specifically her presentation focused on the following topics:

  • How Science editors select manuscripts (and what makes them lose sleep!)
  • Optimizing your paper’s chance of acceptance at Science
  • The ever-evolving landscape of “general interest” topics in cancer research
  • What do Science and Science Translational Medicine look for in cancer research papers?
  • The future of science publishing

Speaker: Bette Phimister, Deputy Editor
Talk: Publishing Advances in Cancer Research
Date: 14 May 2012

Synopsis: The New England Journal of Medicine’s Bette Phimister, Deputy Editor, presented on: Publishing Advances in Cancer Research.

Bette Phimister reviewed progress and pitfalls in cancer research and issues concerning its publication, with a focus on targeted therapies and an eye to future developments. True to the unique format of these special meetings, the second half of the session was dedicated to a Q & A round with the audience whereby participants addressed Bette directly with questions and comments they had about the journal and future directions in cancer research.

Speaker: Victoria Aranda, Senior Editor
Talk: Nature Medicine: an in-depth look at scientific publishing, criteria for cancer research publications and future trends in oncology
Date: 17 September 2012

Synopsis: Victoria Aranda’s presentation offered all participants a stepwise look at the inner workings of the peer review process at Nature Medicine, including initial submission, internal editorial review, peer review, rebuttals and appeals. She also covered how editorial decisions are made to help increase publication success rate, and decrease stress levels. She concluded her talk by surveying in detail Nature Medicine’s criteria for cancer research publications, and provided an overview of future trends in Oncology.

Workshops, Courses, and Observerships

At VHIO we share our expertise, learn from eminent guest speakers, discuss and debate latest findings through the organization of VHIO ad-hoc courses and workshops. For further information click here.

Coming to VHIO in 2013

In addition to a 2013 series of VHIO Meet the Editors (welcoming Editors-in-Chief including Cancer Cell’s Li-Kuo Su and The Lancet Oncology’s David Collingridge) and Workshops, Courses, and Observerships, we are delighted to advance that, in collaboration with the Fritz Bender Foundation, we will be co-organizing the forthcoming international symposium on Progress Towards Individualized Cancer Treatments , 07 - 09 November 2013, Barcelona, Spain.

Incorporating an outstanding panel of internationally renowned speakers, the symposium will run for two and a half days organized into five main sessions: 1) Genetic Profiling of Patients, 2) Tumor Characterization, 3) Tumor- Host Relationships, 4) Therapeutic Targets I, and 5) Therapeutic Targets II. While we are currently engineering what we hope to be a scientific program par excellence, we trust that this meeting will match and celebrate the successes of past Fritz Bender Foundation International Symposia.

For forthcoming announcements, abstract submission and registration, please bookmark and visit VHIO’s website: www.vhio.net.

Last Word

To find out more about our teams, activities and all our latest news, we invite you to visit and bookmark our recently re-launched institutional website at: www.vhio.net.

Contact: +34 93 489 30 21 Email: info@vhio.net    |    © Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO)    |    Photography: Katherin Wermke