Oncologist Elisabeth Pérez, who works at the Costa del Sol hospital in Marbella, has received a grant of 36,000 euros for research from the Carmen Lavigne Hinojosa prize, which is awarded every year by the provincial board of the Spanish Association against Cancer.
Thanks to this financing, Dr Pérez will be able to spend 12 months carrying out clinical tests on immunotherapy for cancer with semialogenic NK lymphocytes at the Centre for Applied Medical Research in Navarra, with the aim of improving the quality of life and extending the survival of cancer patients.
The researcher took part in a press conference earlier this week and explained her future project, accompanied by the president of the provincial board of the Association against Cancer, Francisco Aguilar, and the president of the board's technical committee, Antonio Cobos, in the meeting room of the Rectorate building of Malaga university.
Dr Pérez explained that cancer immunotherapy consists of directing the cellular destruction mechanisms of the immune system to eliminate the cancerous tissue.
One of the cells which is used for this process is the NK ('natural killer') lymphocyte. Its mission is to fight the tumors and defend the patient. This oncologist from Malaga intends to develop a clinical immunotherapy test with these NK cells at the Centre for Applied Medical Research in Navarra and acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to produce a working hypothesis. This will begin with studies in cultivated cells and animal models in order to then check the effect of a new cellular immunotherapy treatment in metastatic patients. The therapy will mainly be applied to patients with cancer of the colon, breast, head and neck.
At the press conference Dr Pérez explained that the idea is to extract the NK cells which attack the cancer and then reintroduce them into the organism, alone or in combination with a treatment with drugs, and let them fight the tumor with the aim of improving the patient's quality of life and helping them to survive longer.
"For me, as a researcher, it is a matter of pride and a personal and professional sacrifice to receive this award. Every since I began to study medicine I was struck by the immune system, and what our defences are capable of doing," she said.
Meanwhile, Francisco Aguilar pointed out that the prize, which totals 60,000 euros a year, is thanks to the generosity of the Lavigne family. "This prize, which has filled us with pride, stems from the Lavigne Hinojosa family's commitment to cancer research," he said.
In addition to the 36,000 euros allocated for Elisabeth Pérez's research, another 24,000 euros has been awarded to the project 'New epigenetic therapies for the sensitisation of tumorous cells to radiotherapy', which is being led by Luis Sánchez del Campo at the University of Murcia.