Dr. Luis Burzio, researcher at Fundación Ciencia & Vida, was given the Santander Award 2013 for the best research to defeat cancer

Dr. Luis Burzio, researcher at Fundación Ciencia & Vida, was given the Santander Universidades Award 2013 for his work A Novel Family of Non-Coding Mitochondrial RNAs as Targets for Diagnosis and Therapy of Cancer.

November 17, 2013

By: José Ignacio Mansilla

Luis Burzio, team leader of the group that develops new therapeutic strategies to defeat cancer at Fundación Ciencia & Vida’s laboratories and renowned professor at Universidad Andrés Bello won the first version of the Scientific Research Award Cancer Prevention and Cure – 2013 in the Senior Category, given by the Santander Bank in alliance with the Chilean Newspaper El Mercurio.

This is the first time that this price is awarded in Chile, which consists of 70,000USD and an international internship scholarship- “I feel very happy, just like all the people who work with me, but we must keep going, because there are many challenges to research yet”, pointed out, Luis Burzio.

Years ago, Dr. Burzio and his associated researchers discovered a novel family of mitochondrial RNAs (Ribonucleic Acid). When they focused on describing this new founding, they noted something that would change the course of their research: They observed that the molecules of this family of RNAs showed a differential expression in normal and tumor cells.

Even more, the team found that eliminating one of these molecules selectively kills tumor cells without affecting normal cells. This finding was the kick-off for establishing Andes Biotechnologies in 2008, seeking to generate a possible universal cancer therapy. According to Dr. Burzio, “If we eliminate those few ARN B molecules with tumor cells, a general instability is produced in those cells, and they died because of apoptosis”.

During the last years, Dr. Burzio and his team have carried out an intense work to design an effective strategy to eliminate those ARN molecules. This strategy has allowed for them to inhibit the growth of different tumors, thus fighting cancer in animal models.

In addition, this finding suggest the possibility to early identify tumor cells by assessing their ARN levels of expression, method that has been explored and shown promising results: Thus far, they have performed experimental approaches to diagnose bladder cancer, cervix cancer, and bone marrow cancer (myeloma).

Nowadays, this therapeutic strategy, which was developed by Andes Biotechnologies laboratories at the Fundación Ciencia & Vida, is undergoing its preclinical phase. Preparation of background information is expected to be prepared this year, so that it can be presented to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in order to start performing clinical tests in humans.