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The International Lung Cancer Foundation awards prizes to two graduates of the University of Navarra

Karmele Valencia from Navarre and Jon Zugazagoitia from Biscay are the only Spaniards awarded by this entity, which has granted a total of eight prizes.

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Karmele Valencia and Jon Zugazagoitia
PHOTO: Manuel Castells and Ceded

Karmele Valencia and Jon Zugazagoitia, graduates of the University of Navarra, have received a award from research from the International Lung Cancer Foundation. They are the only two Spaniards to receive the distinction, out of a total of eight awarded by this organization. The rest come from the United States and Brussels.

Karmele Valencia, born in Pamplona, is a former student of the School of Sciences, where she graduated and obtained her PhD in Biology. She is currently working at area on solid tumors at Cima of the University of Navarra.

"It is the first project that I am funded, so it is a little push in my professional degree program ," he says. In this sense, he recognizes the importance of their support for someone who is just starting out, "young and without many resources, especially in these times in which funding is almost exclusively given to consolidated and well-established researchers, and there is very little budget".

Karmele Valencia focuses her research on the biology of lung cancer, looking for tools to improve early diagnosis of the disease and new treatments for those patients who cannot benefit from current therapies. "Unfortunately there are still many in this pathology. For this reason, we try to make a translational research putting our gaze on the patient," he stresses.

Immune therapies in lung cancer

Jon Zugazagoitia, a native of Durango (Biscay) and former student of the School of Medicine (2007), is a physician-scientist assistant in thoracic oncology at the Hospital 12 de Octubre in Madrid. His research focuses on discovering new biomarkers and targets for immune therapies in lung cancer, with the goal to develop precision immunotherapy strategies to improve patient outcomes.

He worked at Yale University School of Medicine and since 2019 is researcher independent as a recipient of a Juan Rodes contract, at the Hospital 12 de Octubre. Here he treats patients with this pathology, actively participating in clinical trials, as well as in the early stages of development of new immunotherapy drugs for this pathology.

The project he presented is focused on identifying mechanisms of resistance to the PD-1 axis in non-small cell lung cancer. "Much research is being done in the field of immunotherapy resistance in general and PD-1 axis blockade in particular. So far, several mechanisms responsible for this resistance have been identified, but none of them have been translated into effective therapies. We therefore need to continue extensive research in this field because it is of great relevance to patients," he explains.

"This award is a very important boost. I am starting my degree program as an independent researcher and this concession serves as a great financial aid to start and lead my first project", he says.