A research project to look at the potential of Natural Killer (NK), a cell-based adoptive therapy targeting human bladder cancer stem cells, has won the inaugural Astellas European Foundation Uro-Oncology grant 2013.

The $150,000 award has been given to Dr Celia Gomes from the University of Coimbra, Portugal to further research into this adoptive therapy targeting human bladder cancer stem cells using a humanised orthotopic animal model.

The winning project was chosen from 67 applications from a total of 18 countries and complements the Astellas European Foundation’s existing annual grant for Functional Urology / Uro-Gynaecology, which has been awarded annually since 2006.

"The judging panel felt that Dr Gomes’s application has real potential. This thoughtfully planned proposal is ultimately looking to improve the prospect for patients living with bladder cancer."

Astellas European Foundation trustee and Astellas Pharma Europe senior vice-president of medical affairs Dr Ayad Abdulahad said: "The judging panel felt that Dr Gomes’s application has real potential. This thoughtfully planned proposal is ultimately looking to improve the prospect for patients living with bladder cancer."

Speaking on behalf of the team, Dr Celia Gomes added: "The main goal of this project is to evaluate the potential of NK-based adoptive immunotherapy in the eradication of cancer stem cells in bladder cancer and its impact in tumor progression, using a humanised animal
model closely resembling the clinical situation.

"We expect to go further inside this subject and thus contribute with pivotal insights for an effective use of adoptive immunotherapy in the treatment of bladder cancer patients."

A previous oncology-related recipient of the Astellas European Foundation Urology Grants included researchers at France’s Institut Bergonié, led by Dr Nadine Houédé, announced last year that they had achieved their goal of identifying six new gene targets that could be used for the development of alternative strategies to treat prostate cancer.

Their research, published in the December 2012 issue of Molecular Pharmacology, provided proof of concept that it is possible to identify new alternatives to existing treatments for high grade prostate cancers based on the specific genetic background of highly aggressive tumours.