The awards for the 31st Pfizer Prize for Research were given on Thursday, February 10th, in Zurich. Among the winners of the Oncology category were Ilaria Guccini and Ajinkya Revandka, former researchers in the Molecular Oncology group conducted by Prof. Andrea Alimonti, MD at the IOR (Institute of Oncology Research, affiliated to USI and member of Bios+) and currently researchers at ETH Zurich.
The Pfizer Prize for Research, one of the most prestigious in the field of medical research in Switzerland, is awarded each year by the Stiftung Pfizer Forschungspreis to 20 young researchers who have distinguished themselves for their work in institutes or hospitals in the country. This year’s prize, worth a total of 15’000francs, is an important acknowledgement of their achievements and encourages them to continue their studies in their respective fields.
In Pfizer’s press relase, Dr. Rahel Troxler Saxer, president of the Foundation Board and Medical Director of Pfizer Switzerland explains: "We have been committed to research in Switzerland for more than 30 years. Research is fundamental to the advancement of medicine, to help our society. Every year I am surprised by the variety and quality of the papers submitted, which also reflect the needs of research in medicine." For Sabine Bruckner, CEO of Pfizer Switzerland, the research award is a key event each year: "As an international company, we value Switzerland as a home for innovative research. For us, the Foundation is a commitment to support research and innovation in Switzerland. We are proud to have been carrying out this commitment for more than 30 years."
The awarded study Senescent cells are not only responsible for ageing but can in some conditions play a decisive role in tumour progression and the formation of metastases. The awarded study identifies a specific gene - TIMP1 -as the genetic determinant that dictates the distinct outcome of senescence in cancer. If this gene is lost or inactivated, the factors released by the senescent cells are reprogrammed to a composition that makes the tumour more aggressive and invasive. It has been shown that the inactivation of TIMP1 and PTEN frequently occur in prostate cancer and correlated with lack of responsiveness to chemotherapy and more severe clinical outcome. The study vouches for "senolytic medicine" in cancer treatment, especially in combating metastatic transition in tumors with TIMP1-deficiency. Tratment with ABT263, an inhibitor of Bcl2, gene higly expressed by senescent cells, we can efficiently block the formation and progression of metastases in preclinical models for prostate cancer. This study provides theá validation for the first time forá the use of senolytic therapies that selectively eliminate senescent tumor cells in combating metastatic transition in tumors with TIMP1 deficiency and cancer treatment.