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The Cima is researching new immunotherapies and delivery strategies for cancer drugs of marine origin.

With its participation in two research projects, coordinated by PharmaMar, it is seeking unique formulations that could lead to new, more selective and effective therapies.

/From left to right: Carmen Ochoa, Carmen Molina, Álvaro Teijeira, Ignacio Melero and Belén Palencia.

24 | 01 | 2023

The Cima University of Navarra participates in ONCOLIBERYX and TERINMUN, two projects of research aimed at achieving unique formulations that may lead to new oncology therapies based on marine compounds. "Cancer remains the second leading cause of death in developed Western countries. Despite advances in the biological knowledge of the disease and new therapeutic approaches, there is still concern about the side effects caused by the drugs used in its treatment and the search for innovative mechanisms to stimulate the immune system to fight tumor cells," says Dr. Ignacio Melero, researcher senior at Cima and co-director of department of Immunology and Immunotherapy at the Clínica Universidad de Navarra.

goal With the aim of promoting more selective and effective therapies, the pharmaceutical company PharmaMar, business pioneer in the development of novel drugs of marine origin against cancer, is coordinating these two projects. TERINMUN focuses on the search for new compounds of marine origin with antitumor activity that act through innovative immunomodulation mechanisms. ONCOLIBERYX is aimed at developing new drug delivery strategies to increase the specificity of active oncological compounds, reduce their toxicity and side effects, while maintaining or increasing their therapeutic effects.

From these projects, two consortia have been formed in which other leading Spanish centers in nanotechnology and immuno-oncology participate research . ONCOLIBERYX has the experience and knowledge of expert researchers in the field of new drug delivery systems from the University of Santiago de Compostela, the University of the Basque Country and the University of Navarra. National experts in immunology from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, the high school de research Sanitaria del Hospital de La Princesa and the Cima participate in the TERINMUN consortium.

Role of the immune system in therapeutic response

The group of research in Combined Translational Immunotherapy Strategies of Cima, led by Dr. Melero, will contribute to project ONCOLIBERYX its experience in the identification of new immunomodulatory therapeutic strategies and mechanisms of action of antitumor immunity to exploit them in combined immunotherapy strategies against cancer. Specifically, "in this project our team will evaluate the involvement of the immune system in the therapeutic response, focusing on the toxicological-pharmacological analysis after loco-regional administration of the formulations developed among the members of the consortium", explains Dr. Melero.

Validation of the compounds discovered

The project TERINMUN will focus on the search for small molecules that have been optimized over the course of evolution within the biodiversity of marine ecosystems and that have the ability to boost the immune system against cancer through new mechanisms of action. In this project "we will mainly focus on validating the in vivo efficacy of the compounds discovered and on determining the molecular pathways whose activity can be modified by the new antitumor compounds identified", concludes Dr. Melero.

Both projects have been selected in the Ministry of Science and Innovation 's 2022 call for public-private partnership projects and are each funded with more than €3 million in Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan funds.