Research line

Understanding pancreatic cancer biology to pave the way to rational development of new therapy options

The overarching goal of our research is to devise novel therapeutic strategies that are clinically relevant and have the potential to be tested for pancreatic cancer patient care.

We focus on the study of intercellular communication mediated by extracellular vesicles (EVs) at four levels:

  • at the cellular level to determine how cells in pancreatic tumors use EVs to communicate;
  • at the molecular level by identifying the cargo of these EVs;
  • at the mechanistic level to determine how the cargo reprograms recipient neighbor or distant cells;
  • at the therapeutic level by targeting these reprograming events to treat pancreatic cancer.

A clear understanding of the mechanisms of communication between the cellular components of these tumors through the identification of the reprograming events led by the cargo of EVs, is likely to generate important knowledge for the design of new therapeutic targets.

Our work also offers a new perspective in tumor biology: a systems view where instead of focusing on a specific cell type(s) and specific molecules we decipher how everything works together. As cells have a proven capacity to reprogram others with information through EVs, their coexistence and this modulation capacity needs to be understood if we are to grasp and effectively target the complexity of tumor biology.

The hypothesis that drives our research is tested in cutting-edge in vivo models using state-of-the-art technology. Our team develops first of their kind next-generation in vivo models to trace EVs in their natural context, modulate their secretion in vivo and determine their role in the biology of the tumor, and use preclinical models derived from human PDAC tumors (patient-derived xenografts) to validate our findings. Thus, we aim to connect fundamental discovery with viable clinical applications.

Our team at i3S – Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde, Porto, Portugal takes great care in making sure that our research contributes both to the scientific recognition of the group, as well as to the build-up of a team of students and postdocs with clear perspectives of a successful career. As part of the team, we offer cutting-edge science opportunities and significant career development for early-career researchers.