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Catalan researchers open door to a new treatment against colon cancer

Barcelona Institute for Research in Biomedicine’s finding employs use of immunology against colon cancer and its metastasis



15 February 2018 01:53 PM


ACN | Barcelona

Therapies that activate the immune system to fight cancer-causing cells are among the most effective treatments against some tumours, such as melanomas and lung cancer. Yet most colon tumours could not be treated with this kind of therapy, called immunotherapy – until now. The Barcelona Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) has found that the hormone TFG-beta is responsible for the inaction of the immune system when fighting tumour-causing cells in the colon, thus advancing the possibilities of using immunotherapy in the treatment of colon cancer

The findings of the research, which have been published in ‘Nature’ magazine, show that if the effects of the TGF-beta hormone are neutralized,  the cells of the immune system can recognize the presence of the tumour, fight cancer, and even prevent metastasis in the liver and the lung. “The findings of the research show that we were able to reverse the disease, even when it was advanced,” said the head of the team that undertook the research, Eduard Batlle. “We healed mice that were about to die, and now they are alive,” he added.


  • “There is a long way to go in enhancing and working in this field, but I am sure that many patients will benefit from this therapy”

    Eduard Batlle · Head of the researchers team

Real patients are more complex than pre-clinical models

According to Batlle, the findings of the research are “spectacular”. Still, he admitted that real patients are more complex and heterogeneous than pre-clinical models, and that tumours may develop other mechanisms. “There is a long way to go in enhancing and working in this field, but I am sure that many patients will benefit from this therapy,” stated Batlle.   

Between 40% and 50% of colon cancer patients suffer relapses in the disease, as well as metastasis in the liver or in the lung. Currently, when an advanced colon cancer is diagnosed, oncologists are not able to provide an effective treatment to patients. Thus, these new findings open the door to create the first treatment based on immunology for patients suffering from colon cancer. The first results in clinical testing are expected within two or three years.


  • IRB Barcelona's researchers team (by Laura Fíguls)

  • IRB Barcelona's researchers team (by Laura Fíguls)