Barcelona, international leader in cancer and epigenetics research


On October 1st and 2nd, national and international experts in cancer and epigenetics will meet for the second year in CaixaForum Barcelona, ​​convened by BDebate and the Epigenetics and Cancer Biology Programme (PEBC) at Institute of Biomedical Research of Bellvitge (IDIBELL), to discuss the latest developments in this field of research.

The new edition of the conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of a scientific article in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that revolutionized knowledge, behaved as discovering new levels of cellular regulation that would explain diseases such as cancer. This research promises great advances in early diagnosis and treatment of various diseases, as cancer. In this sense, the pharmaceutical industry and tested some of the first clinical applications of this knowledge.

In Catalonia, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women have the chance of developing cancer over their lifetime, according to the latest data from the Generalitat de Catalunya. Currently, more than 20,000 men and nearly 14,000 women suffer cancer. The most common among males are prostate, lung, and colon and rectum; while in women are breast, cervical, and colon and rectum.

Not everything is written

The genome is like an instruction book of life. Except for the mutations, genetic information of every person is the same. But in 1964 researchers V.G. Allfrey, R. Faulkner and A.E. Mirsky described chemical modifications of the genome that are basic to understanding other cellular processes. “With the publication of this article opened an entire field in the world of biology,” valued Alejandro Vaquero, PEBC researcher and scientific leader of the new Bdebate edition.
The three researchers showed that cells had a new level of regulation that had not been described before. “This level of cellular regulation is above genetic information and opens a world of infinite possibilities,” said Vaquero.

These changes not only have implications for human health, but also provide therapeutic targets for researchers to find new ways of early diagnosis and more effective treatments for diseases such as cancer.

Until the mid-twentieth century, the development of cancer had been attributed to abnormalities of the genes themselves, but more recent research shows how some cancers are explained by changes in how these genes are expressed without changing the genetic information contain. These changes are due to epigenetic mechanisms that affect gene activity and have consequences that can persist and even transmitted to the next generation. These changes may be induced by factors such as pollution, diet and lifestyle.

Histones are proteins essential for storage and organization of the DNA into the cell nucleus, where the information of a living being is located.

The genetic instructions lead this process, but now we know that the environment also plays a very important role. One of epigenetic mechanisms influencing gene expression is the process of acetylation. It is estimated that between 80% and 90% of human proteins may be modified such. “A large part of the proteins we have in our body will be modified and acetylation is one of the most common processes,” notes Vaquero.

The acetylation was the first epigenetic mechanism that was described, but there are others such as methylation that also influence gene regulation and are inherited from generation to generation. The conference focuses on these molecular mechanisms and how they affect gene regulation, with special attention to the onset of disease to find new strategies for early detection and more effective treatments.

B • Debate International Center for Scientific Debate Barcelona is an iniative driven by Biocat and Obra Social “la Caixa” in order to find answers and solutions to challenges and social needs in the field of life sciences by holding international meetings of high scientific level.

Barcelona Conferences on Epigenetics and Cancer: 50 years of histone acetylation is followed by a second conference to be held in Barcelona during 2013-2017, aspiring to become an international reference in this field. The second edition is scientifically directed by Alejandro Vaquero (PEBC-IDIBELL).

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