Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF) are one of the most abundant and versatile cellular types in the tumour environment. These cells are heterogenous, both on a transcriptomic and a functional level, as the different populations identified may restrict or promote the development of the cancer.
The research of Silvia Affò, currently junior researcher of the IDIBAPS group Liver cell plasticity and tissue repair led by Pau Sancho-Bru, focuses on discovering the factors responsible for the heterogeneity of CAFs, as well as on the study of interactions between these cells and the rest of cell types that surround the tumour. The project will start by working with liver cancers. The ultimate goal of DynamHet, awarded 1,775,000 euros, is to develop targeted therapies against CAFs, to manipulate them and reprogramme them towards a phenotype that inhibits tumour growth.
“DynamHet is an ambitious and innovative project, that opens up new perspectives for precision medicine” states Affò. “The technologies and knowledge resulting from the project will provide the bases to generate combined targeted therapies, not only against the tumour, but also against its micro-environment. This will represent an important advance for thtreatment of tumours characterised by the formation of an excess of extracellular matrix in the tissue surrounding them”.
The European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grants provide support to research that is high risk but that has great potential to advance in scientific knowledge. The goal is to facilitate the independence of young research staff so that they can start up their own research group. To benefit from the grants, which are highly competitive, the lead researchers of the projects have to demonstrate their innovative nature, ambition and the viability of their scientific proposal.