Success Stories

Chilhood brain tumors (University of Navarra) Dr. Marta María Alonso (RYC-2008-02656)

I was born in Pamplona (07.07.74) but a native of Lodosa (town known for its delicious red peppers). I graduated in Biological Sciences from the University of Navarra (1997) and later I obtained my PhD degree in Health Sciences at the Public University of Navarra (2001). In 2003 I moved to MD Anderson Cancer Center for a postdoctoral stay under the supervision of Dr. Juan Fueyo and Dr. Gomez-Manzano. I spent seven years there, first as a postdoc and later as a Junior Faculty. I was lucky to have exceptional mentors that guided me scientifically and personally.

In 2010 I was lucky to get a Ramon y Cajal that allowed me to come back to Pamplona to form my own group. Thanks to Ramon y Cajal I could work on my passion which is childhood brain tumors. High-grade tumors of the central nervous system are the most common malignant solid tumors in childhood. Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), high-grade glioma (PHGG) and PNETs are a priority for our group. These entities are an important cause of illness and death in children and, despite treatment with surgery, radiotherapy and combination chemotherapy, overall survival has not improved substantially in recent years. Therefore, it is obvious that the management of these diseases is suboptimal, and new targeted therapies are required.

The main goal of our laboratory is to develop new therapeutic strategies for brain tumors exploiting the immune system by using tumor-specific oncolytic adenovirus and combining it with other strategies that can enhance this effect. We use the Delta-24-RGD adenovirus, which is designed to replicate specifically in cells having altered RB pathway cell cycle control, which makes them particularly interesting for use in childhood tumors. We use this virus as a platform to develop other viruses that seek to exploit the immune system for better therapeutic results.
Our project uses new and relevant models of childhood brain tumors both in vitro and in vivo with the idea of to implement these strategies in children with brain tumors in the clinical setting.

Throughout my career I have been fortunate that my work has been recognized by various mentions such as the MD Anderson Cancer Center MD Anderson Alumni and Faculty Association Trainee Excellence Award (2007) and the VII prize Lóreal-UNESCO for Women in Science (2013), among others.

The group has competitive funding from several National and European agencies (Carlos III Institute or the European Union) as well as support from various foundations (Fuerza Julen within the Association Pablo Ugarte).

Total number of posts = 47; Index H = 25 (15th of January, 2016)
The 5 most relevant publications:

-The oncolytic adenovirus VCN-01 as therapeutic approach against pediatric osteosarcoma. Martínez-Vélez N, Xipell E, Vera B, de la Rocha A, Zalacain M, Marrodán L, Gonzalez-Huarriz M, Toledo G, Cascallo M, Alemany R, Patiño A, Alonso MM. Clin Cancer Res 2015 Nov 24. pii: clincanres.1899.2015.

-Functionally-defined Therapeutic Targets in Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. A Report of the Children’s Oncology Group DIPG Preclinical Consortium. Grasso CS, Tang Y, Truffaux N, Berlow NE, Liu L, Debily MA, Quist MJ, Davis LE, Huang EC, Woo PJ, Ponnuswami A, Chen S, Johung TB, Sun W, Kogiso M, Du Y, Lin Q, Huang Y, Hütt-Cabezas M, Warren KE, Le Dret L, Meltzer PS, Hua Mao10, Quezado M, van Vuurden DG, Abraham J, Fouladi M, Svalina MN, Wang N, Hawkins C, Nazarian J, Alonso MM, Raabe E, Hulleman E, Spellman PT, Li XN, Keller C, Pal R, Grill J, Monje M. Nature Medicine 2015 May 4. doi: 10.1038/nm.3855.

-The oncolytic adenovirus Δ24-RGD in combination with cisplatin exerts a potent anti-osteosarcoma activity Martinez-Velez N, Xipell E, Jauregu P, Zalacain M, Marrodan L, Zandueta C, Vera B, Urquiza L, Sierrasesúmaga L, San Julián M, Toledo G, Fueyo J, Gomez-Manzano, C, Torre W, Lecanda F, Patiño-García A, Alonso MM. J Bone Miner Res. 2014, 29:2287-96

– Delta-24-RGD in combination with RAD001 induces antiglioma effect via autophagic cell death

Alonso MM*, Jiang H, Yokoyama T, Xu J, Bekele NB, Lang FF, Kondo S, Gomez-Manzano C, and Fueyo J. (2008). Mol Ther 16:487-93; * Corresponding author

– Adenovirus-Based strategies overcome temozolomide resistance by silencing the O6-methylguanine-DNAmethyltranferase promoter. Alonso MM*, Gomez-Manzano C, Bekele NB, Yung WKA, and Fueyo J. (2007). Cancer Res 67:1-6; * Corresponding author

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