Development and evaluation of new approaches to cancer treatment

Principal investigator at the Institute of Oncology Ljubljana: Acad. Prof. Gregor Sersa, PhD

Our research is aimed at development and evaluation of new, innovative approaches in cancer treatment. It is conducted predominantly at the Department of Experimental Oncology at the Institute of Oncology Ljubljana, with close cooperation with the clinical departments in our institution. It is a translational program, which will encompass both, preclinical and clinical research. In preclinical level we will focus on electroporation based drug (electro chemotherapy) and gene delivery, as well as on other means of delivery, such as cold plasma and stem cells. Systems for gene delivery and therapy to various tissues and tumours will be developed, their mechanisms of action explored, and evaluated in preclinical models in vitro and in vivo for possible translation into the clinics. We will concentrate on vascular-targeting and immunomodulation gene therapy approaches and explore their value in combination with irradiation, as these approaches can act as radio sensitizers. Radio sensitizing effects of combined therapy approach will be tested in preclinical level, in mouse tumour models, and the underlying mechanisms of action explored.The clinical application of the developed approaches, as well as of electro chemotherapy, will be evaluated first in veterinary oncology, as the best approach for the translation into the human oncology. In clinical studies we will perform the treatment of tumours in cats and dogs, patients referred to the Clinic for Surgery and Small Animals at the Veterinary Faculty of University of Ljubljana. The gained experience will be applied in the human clinical trials in our own institution, or in collaboration with other clinical institutions in Ljubljana, or international partners. Foreseen are the clinical trials in electro chemotherapy, both, for cutaneous and deep seated tumours, like primary liver tumours and liver metastases, pancreatic and mammary tumours. The developments in gene electro transfer to tumours will be evaluated in human clinical trials as well.The program is interdisciplinary; it will be executed in close collaboration between the researchers and clinicians, within the research community in Slovenia, as well as in collaboration with international partners. Most of the equipment is already available; from molecular laboratory, to cell laboratory, irradiation facility, animal colony and clinical environment. The vast experience that was gained so far in this research area is the guarantee for successful continuance of our program. Details about the project are available on the website SICRIS: Development and evaluation of new approaches to cancer treatment.