Appointment of Antoni Castells, Group leader
Knowing the cause of a disease and understanding how and why it is inherited is the first step towards preventing many of them. If there is any disease in which this approach is paradigmatic, it is cancer

Current research

Problem

Gastrointestinal and pancreatic neoplasms are among the most common cancers in the western world, and among those that cause the highest number of deaths. Paradoxically, some of them, for instance, colorectal cancer, can easily be prevented as they are usually preceded by premalignant lesions that can be removed, thus preventing their progression to cancer.

Meanwhile, in a small but significant number of cases, the tumour is the result of a hereditary disease and the genes responsible for them are known.

Approach

Prevention of colorectal cancer considers several approaches, depending on personal and/or family-related factors that condition its development. Establishing screening programmes among the general public is the most cost-effective measure. In hereditary forms, genetic counselling and performing genetic studies, where appropriate, make it possible to identify individuals who are carriers of mutations. Lastly, advanced endoscopic techniques promote the detection and eventual removal of the first lesions.

Impact

Studies performed by the group have made it possible to ascertain the efficacy of diverse colorectal and pancreatic cancer screening strategies and identify biomarkers derived from tumour molecular alterations. It has also established the best approach for the detection of Lynch syndrome, the main form of hereditary colorectal cancer. Lastly, many clinical studies have contributed to defining the indications and outcomes of different endoscopic and surgical techniques for the diagnosis and treatment of these neoplasms.