1. Study of the invasive capacity of glioblastoma stem cells (GSCs). The capacity of glioblastoma (GBM) cells to invade the surrounding parenchyma is one of the main problems for an efficient therapeutic strategy because it makes complete resection nearly impossible. Among the GBM cells there is a small population (<5%) with the capacity to regenerate the tumor and with features similar to those found in adult stem cells. They are the so-called cancer stem cells. If the current hypothesis is right, this cell population is the proper target for new therapeutic strategies. We aim to identify molecular mediators of migration and invasion of GSCs.
2. Development of in vitro models to study the response of GBM cells to chemotherapy in physiological environments. Most in vitro studies to measure the cellular response to chemotherapy use cell cultures on 2D surfaces. There are many evidences about the role of the biophysic features of the microenvironment in cellular processes studied in vitro (diferentiation, migration, survival). In order to optimize more physiological in vitro models of chemotherapy response, closer to in vivo models, we are studying the behaviour of GBM cells (GSCs and tumor parenchymal cells) following exposure to chemotherapeutic agents in different microenvironments.
3. Screening of novel compounds addressed to cancer stem cells by using computational and biologic platforms. Currently, there are different undergoing clinical trials addressed to kill cancer stem cells. However, a lack of proof of concept still persist, which means that there are no drugs approved for this indication. This novel therapeutic area is open to different experimental approaches including combinatorial chemistry, re - profiling and virtual screening, among others. In co - llaboration with a start-up from the Bioinformatics Unit at Centro de Biologia Molecular Severo Ochoa (CSIC), we have established a platform that joints computational screening of 5 million compounds with the validation of candidates in biological mo - dels in vitro and in vivo. Target cells are cancer stem cells from GBM and colon cancer.
4. Development of a biosensor device to detect, quantify and isolate circulating tumor cells from cancer patients: SENTIR Project. This device, based on optical principles and a microfluidic system, is being developed jointly by IDIVAL (group of cell signaling and therapeutic targets and group of Medical Oncology), University of Cantabria (optics group of the Faculty of Sciences), the center Technological group IK4-TEKNIKER (micro-manufacturing group) and the Cantabrian biotech company CELLBIOCAN. Currently, the assembly of an experimental prototype is being finalized, which will be optimized until it reaches a final product with which a clinical validation will be performed with samples from cancer patients. The objective is to quantify blood CTCs as a predictor, and to isolate them for further genetic analysis, which will allow a personalized selection of the treatment.