Dr. Idoya Lahortiga
Dr Idoya Lahortiga won the CAJA MADRID FOUNDATION / JOSÉ CARRERAS FOUNDATION fellowship for 2004.
She dedicated the award of €30,000 towards undertaking her project: Identification of the genes involved in 3q21q26 syndrome signified by the overexpression of the gene EV1 and the design of new therapeutic strategies using siRNA (short interfacing RNA) in myeloid neoplasms in the Genetics Department of the University of Navarra.
In 2007, Dr Lahortiga was awarded a second grant for scientific research provided by the José Carreras Foundation, this time receiving the European EHA fellowship. Dr Lahortiga dedicated the €40,000 grant to the project Investigation of MYB as a target for therapy in T-cell acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia at the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology in Leuven, Belgium.
Dr Lahortiga is currently working at the Centre for Applied Medical Research (CIMA) at the University of Navarra.
We asked her about the progress of her research on leukaemia and other malignant haemopathies and she has made the following comments:
"In recent years, and thanks to national funding and later the José Carreras Foundation International Fellowship, I have been able to carry out research in the field of malignant haematological illnesses.
T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (LLA-T) is the most frequent type of cancer in children and adolescents, in particular those between two and three years old. T-cells protect us against attacks from external organisms such as viruses or bacteria, eliminating both infected and abnormal (cancerous) cells. In this illness, T-cells which are still immature are produced at an increased rate and impede the correct functioning of the immune system which makes those infected more susceptible to infections. At present these patients receive chemotherapy, however it is important to continue researching the causes of the illness in order to develop treatments that are less toxic and more effective.
The development of this type of leukeamia occurs as a result of alterations in various genes which means it is not only important to discover the affected genes but also the combinations that allow the illness to develop, trying to define possible therapeutic focal points as well as finding chemical compositions that induce differentiation (maturation) of the cells and can be used for treatment.
Our objective is to study the cause of the excessive proliferation of the cells whose causes are unknown in 80% of patients. These ‘defects' in their genes are largely cryptic and cannot be detected ‘in plain view' using routine techniques. For this reason it is necessary to make use of higher resolution molecular techniques such as arrays or massive sequencing. However, the use of these techniques is limited by the extremely high financial costs. The support of businesses and scientific research organizations is of vital importance in making the dream of a personalized, specific and effective treatment for all leukaemia patients a reality."
For more information see: http://www.unav.es/noticias/071005-05.html (in Spanish).