Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology
Associate Professor, Department of Medicine and Life Sciences
Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Research Director, Consortium Mar Health Park of Barcelona and Hospital del Mar Institute of Medical Research
Director, Preclinical Research Program
Developing novel therapies that utilize the power of the immune system to treat breast cancer.
Normal cells respond to damage by halting cell division, putting the cells in a state of cellular senescence. Similarly, malignant cells will become senescent in response to some therapies. While senescent tumor cells no longer proliferate, they remain molecularly active and produce factors that promote aggressiveness in neighboring tumor cells. Dr. Arribas’ team is focused on developing novel strategies that redirect the immune system against senescent cells, thereby eradicating them and increasing the efficacy of breast cancer therapies.
Dr. Arribas and his colleagues developed experimental models that helped to establish that cellular senescence can exert either anti- or pro-tumorigenic effects depending on the stage of the tumor and the immune cells present in the immediate tumor environment. Preliminary studies indicate that senescent cells promote the anti-tumor immune response at early stages of tumor formation while inhibiting it at later stages. In addition, specifically depleting senescent cells has an anti-tumor effect. Dr. Arribas and his group have also identified candidate cell surface molecules (PD-L2 and LRRC15) that are overexpressed in senescent cells. In the last year, his team found that senescent cells mediate anti-tumor immune response by manipulating specific immune cells called macrophages in the tumor immune microenvironment.
Dr. Arribas and his colleagues will build on their findings and characterize the population of macrophages as well as identify other factors that play a role in the ability of senescent cells to influence an immune response. They will also continue to identify other cell surface molecules (in addition to PD-L2 and LRRC15) as biomarkers for senescent cells and promising candidates for antibody development. In turn, these antibodies can be used to engineer immune constructs that can efficiently recognize and stop senescent cells from influencing surrounding tumor cells. Results of these studies will produce a novel strategy to target senescent cells and expand the number of anti-tumor tools for treating breast cancer.
If not for the BCRF my group would have not been able to conduct a high-risk long-term project that will result in better treatments against breast cancer.
Dr. Joaquin Arribas is the Director of Preclinical Research Program at Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology in Barcelona, Spain, where he leads a group focused on the study of growth factors, growth factor receptors, and the proteases involved in remodeling the cell surface. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Translational Oncology, and CDB Protein Systems.
Dr. Arribas is member of the Spanish and American Societies of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and President of the Committee for the Evaluation of Cancer Research project at the Institute of Health Carlos III, a major public funding agency in Spain.
Dr. Arribas completed his undergraduate studies in biochemistry at the University of Madrid, where he subsequently worked on the regulation of the catalytic activities of the proteasome and received a PhD in biology in 1991. Sponsored by a fellowship from the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science, he joined Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York as a postdoctoral fellow to work with Dr. Joan Massague (1992-1996) on the proteolytic processing of transmembrane growth factors. In 1997, he joined the Oncology Department at Hospital Vall d’Hebron as a staff scientist and was promoted to lead the oncology research department in 2001. Dr. Arribas’s research has been recognized by the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), which honored him with a Young Investigator Program (YIP) Award. Also, Dr. Arribas received the Beckman Coulter Award conferred on the Best Young Spanish Investigator in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
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