FERO’s 14th Annual Award and Fundraising Gala Dinner: putting the brakes on metastatic cell spread and a pledge for pediatric oncology


Celebrated this week, the FERO Foundation’s community and supporters gathered once again at the stunning Oval Room of Catalonia’s National Museum of Arta (MNAC) for its annual fundraising gala dinner and 14th Annual Award for Translational Award. Founded and currently Presided by José Baselga, Physician-in-Chief at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC, New York), and President of VHIO’s Internal Scientific Foundation, FERO has over the last decade supported science of excellence at our Institute as well as promoted and grown the careers of up-and-coming talents in oncology. Importantly, as one of VHIO’s cherished institutional supporters and private patrons, FERO has previously honored six VHIO researchers with its prestigious annual Award. This year’s edition grows that number to seven.

Chaired by Andrés Cervantes, Director of Oncology at the Institute of Health Research INCLIVA (Valencia, Spain), the Foundation’s expert selection committee backed two pioneering projects focused on combating metastatic cell spread. The first, to be spearhead by Alena Gros, Principal Investigator of our Tumor Immunology & Immunotherapy Group, will advance insights into the naturally-occurring T-cell response in cancer patients and ultimately translate discovery into benefits for patients by developing novel and more precise strategies to harness the immune response in the treatment of cancer. More specifically, based on their hypothesis that personalized T-cell therapies can induce regression of metastatic solid cancers, Alena’s ambition is to develop personalized non-invasive T-cell therapies targeting hot spot driver mutations that can be used to treat patients with metastatic solid cancers, refractory to standard therapies.

Upon receiving the first of these two Awards amounting to 80.000 EUR each, Alena observed, “Only through the generous support received through entities such as the FERO and the Ramón Areces Foundations, will we be able to identify and open more effective therapeutic avenues to reverse drug resistance and counteract tumour cell spread factors. As we are increasingly witnessing, immunological strategies represent potential game changers in the way we will be treating cancer in the future.”

Commenting for VHIO Communications she said, “I am truly grateful to FERO, the Ramón Areces Foundation and this year’s selection committee for their belief and backing of our research. This project represents an important next step towards potentiating T-cell based therapies in boosting the immune system to mount an effective antitumor response.”

Sponsored by Sol Daurella, Vice-President of FERO, the second selected project to be led by Berta L. Sánchez-Laorden, Unit of Neurobiology and Development, the Instituto de Neurociencias de Alicante (IN), will center on melanoma-derived brain metastasis – now the third most common form of metastasis after that of lung and breast cancer, and strive to identify new therapeutic targets by investigating the link between neuroinflammation and the progression of melanoma-derived brain metastasis and its effect on immune cells in the brain. Awarded a matched 80.000 EUR, this funding will further enable Berta and her team to better understand the molecular and miroenvironmental d underpinnings of the plasticity of melanoma cells towards developing more powerful treatment strategies to overcome resistance to current therapies.

Hosting over 800 guests, Piru Cantarell, Director of FERO and master of ceremonies, also launched a very special and new element to the proceedings. Projecting a live fundraising counter on the big screens, she invited all present to donate to a new project aimed at advancing precious insights into acute lymphoblastic leukemia – the most common of all pediatric cancers. To be directed by Josep Sánchez de Toledo, Head of Pediatric Oncology & Hematology at the Vall d´Hebron University Hospital (Vall d´Hebron Barcelona Hospital Campus) this research will focus on driving diagnostics and more precise therapies against this tumor type. Piru announced that if FERO’s community present at the dinner succeeded in collectively raising 6.000 EUR by the end of the night (donated anonymously or not, via their cell devices), then a matched, additional 6.000 EUR would be awarded by Mercedes and Juan Escoda Huguet, in memory of their mother.

It is thanks to tremendous generosity of FERO’s devoted community and dedicated supporters that by the close of dinner, the amount raised totalled at a staggering 42.165 EUR plus the additional 6.000 EUR pledged.