NEP: Would you like to volunteer in a clinical trial?

This question is usually asked by the clinical research team to patients at Instituto Mário Penna who can join clinical trials. But before hearing the answer, some explanations are essential.

A research volunteer, also known as a research participant, is a person who agrees to use a new drug that is in the testing phase and that may be beneficial for the treatment of cancer. The identification of potential volunteers is carried out by the team of oncologists who indicate those who can participate in the studies. For this invitation it is necessary to check three fundamental points:

1 – Does the test treatment provide more benefit than the standard treatment? In some situations, clinical studies offer medications that are not available in the SUS or in the health insurance, and that already show promising results compared to therapies used in routine, and that can increase lifespan or cause fewer side effects. In other situations, the patient has already gone through a long path of treatments and the therapy options have already been exhausted, leaving the oncologist to repeat a treatment that has already been done before. With clinical research it is possible to enable a new line of treatment.

2 – What happens when I participate in the clinical trial? The clinical study does not start before the patient is informed about the risks, benefits, follow-up tests, medications used, side effects, treatment time, consultations and all other information necessary to guarantee their right to make a decision. After clarification, a document called the Informed Consent Term (FICF) is signed by the patient and the physician responsible for the guidelines given. The term contains all the information discussed and the contacts of those responsible for the clinical protocol.

3 – Does the patient meet the study’s safety criteria? Before the clinical study arrives at Instituto Mário Penna, other analyzes are carried out regarding the drug, making it possible to know the main side effects it can cause, thus excluding patients who may have any risk factors for taking the medication. Several tests are performed between signing the consent form and before administering the first dose of medication, with the aim of getting to know the patient.

Cíntia Lima, Clinical Research Coordinator Nurse, emphasizes that a patient who is well informed about the possibilities of treatment in oncology will certainly have no difficulty in answering the question in the title of this text. She also reinforces that the mission of the clinical research team is to offer the best treatment to patients and ensure that their wishes are respected.

*Text written by Cíntia Lima, Enf. Clinical Research Coordinator

Mário Penna Institute will have the first Tumor Biobank in operation in Minas Gerais

The Mário Penna Institute received authorization from the National Research Ethics Committee (CONEP) to implement the first Tumor Biobank in the State of Minas Gerais. It is the only one in a philanthropic hospital in the state that serves more than 80% of its patients through the SUS and will be operational from next year.

Dr. Letícia Braga, Coordinator of the Translational Research Laboratory of the Teaching and Research Nucleus (NEP), will be responsible for the activities at IMP. She explains that Biobanks consist of a sophisticated and well-organized system of programmed storage of biological material (blood, CSF, tumor and normal tissues) and corresponding data, which are accessible for scientific investigation and for the treatment of cancer.

“For implementation, we received financial support through the National Oncology Program (PRONON). Initially, Biobanco will provide samples of tumor and non-tumor tissue from the breast and ovary, including biomolecules such as DNA, RNA and protein. We will have the capacity to store patients’ biological materials through cryopreservation (-80ºC and -180ºC), in addition to our own system for storing the entire clinical and epidemiological history of patients, which will be integrated into the National Biobanks System”; account Dr. Leticia.

And what makes Instituto Mário Penna different from having a Biobank?

At Biobanco, samples are stored with quality allowing cellular, molecular or systemic studies, using different types of technologies, such as Liquid Biopsy, sequencing and Flow Cytometry, as well as having access to clinical data of patients with the response to treatment, recurrence , prognosis, among others.

“The biological samples stored at Biobanco will be available to researchers from the institution itself or to any other (national or international) that wants to establish partnerships/collaborations for research and development. With this, the Mário Penna Institute, in addition to being recognized for the excellent care of cancer patients, becomes one of the main actors in the generation of knowledge and products in oncology in the context of the SUS”; emphasizes Dr. Leticia.


NEP: The Hope of a Vaccine to Treat Colorectal Cancer

In the previous text we talked about the importance of early diagnosis as one of the main allies for the cure of colorectal cancer. Now let’s talk about a great advance in science in the search for more efficient and less aggressive treatments than conventional chemotherapy and radiotherapy, used in the vast majority of cases.

Recently, a group of researchers from Germany published promising results from the application of a protective vaccine against hereditary colorectal cancer in mice. This type of colorectal cancer accounts for about 3% of cases (1 in 30) and is caused by an inherited syndrome called Lynch Syndrome.

In this study, scientists at the University Hospital of Heidelberg, Germany, identified that many patients with this syndrome had identical mutations in the DNA of the cancer cell. “The most interesting thing is that four of these mutations had the ability to make the body’s own defense cells attack the tumor”; account Dr. Carolina Melo, researcher at the Translational Research Laboratory of the Study and Research Nucleus (NEP).

They then developed a vaccine with proteins containing these mutations to be tested in mice. According to Dr. Carolina, it’s as if the vaccine showed the mouse’s defense cells which defective cells must be eliminated and so they attack the cancer as soon as it appears.

“The vaccinated mice survived longer and had a significantly smaller tumor than the unvaccinated ones. It was the first time that tests in a living being showed that it is possible to delay the development of hereditary colorectal cancer with a vaccine developed from mutations found in the cancer cell”; emphasizes the researcher.

Clinical trials demonstrating the safety and immunological efficacy of this vaccination in humans have already been successfully completed in a hospital in Frankfurt, Germany, and in the coming years we will know if it will be able to prevent tumors and prolong patient survival.

Science and medicine are doing their part in finding more efficient ways to treat and prevent colorectal cancer. Make you yours too! Beware! Make your routine exams according to medical advice, have healthy eating habits, exercise. Take care of yourself!

  • Text written by Dr. Carolina Melo, PhD in human genetics, who has been working for over 10 years in oncology research and is currently part of the NEP research team.

NEP and colorectal cancer: prevention is still the best medicine

Colorectal cancer, despite being the second most common type of cancer in men and women (apart from non-melanoma skin cancer), is also one of the most preventable. That’s because he doesn’t suddenly appear. This type of cancer originates from polyps (abnormal cell growth) located in the large intestine in the colon, rectum and anus regions. They usually don’t cause symptoms and can take between 10 and 15 years to develop into cancer. But if detected during a colonoscopy (a test that captures real-time images of the intestine) they can be removed before cancer occurs.

However, only 40% of colorectal cancer cases are detected at an early stage. The vast majority are detected in advanced stages, when symptoms are more evident and existing treatments less effective.

But if there are ways to diagnose it early, why is it still happening? According to the doctor. Carolina Melo, a researcher at the NEP’s Translational Research Laboratory, one of the main reasons is that there is still a lot of prejudice against colonoscopy, as it is an invasive technique, which requires a preparation (cleaning) of the colon considered unpleasant because it includes the use of laxatives and large water intake.

Routine colonoscopy should be performed in the population, in general, from 50 years of age, with regular intervals that can go from 3 to 5 years, according to medical advice.

“If everyone was aware of the suffering that can be avoided with the early diagnosis of colorectal cancer, there might not be room for this type of prejudice. There are other ways to screen for signs of colorectal cancer, but colonoscopy is the only one that can prevent it from starting by removing the polyps”; emphasizes Dr. Carolina.

Some people have a higher risk of getting this disease. About 3% of cases (1 in 30) of colorectal cancer are caused by an inherited syndrome called Lynch Syndrome. In this syndrome, mutations in genes that help repair DNA damage can increase by up to 50% a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer, usually relatively young. Therefore, knowing the family history is very important in these cases.

In addition, for those who have problems with intestinal inflammation, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, or have a first-degree relative who has already had some type of bowel cancer, this test should start from 40 years of age onwards. .

The good news is that researchers are working on the search for biomarkers, such as specific cells, molecules or genes, that allow the early diagnosis of cancer in a less invasive and more assertive way. Another advance in colorectal cancer treatment is the recent publication of promising results from the application of a protective vaccine against hereditary colorectal cancer in mice.

Want to learn more about scientific advances in the diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer? In the next edition, Dr. Carolina continues talking about this topic on our social networks and on Infoco.


  • Text written by Dr. Carolina Melo, PhD in human genetics. She has worked for over 10 years in oncology research and is currently part of the NEP research team.

NEP: Meet an Ongoing Breast Cancer Study

The Pink October campaign – prevention of breast cancer – highlights the importance of an early and effective diagnosis for all audiences. This type of cancer affects 2.2 million women worldwide and, in Brazil, it is responsible for approximately 18 thousand deaths per year. Did you know that IMP has a team of researchers looking for new ways to help diagnose and treat breast cancer patients? The group at the Center for Studies and Research (NEP) has been working to find a more accurate and less invasive diagnosis.

One of the proposals developed at the Laboratory of Translational Research in Oncology at NEP is carried out by doctoral student Thayse Batista, in collaboration with Fiocruz Minas. Thayse is studying the profile of tumor microvesicles present in the blood of breast cancer patients treated at Hospital Luxembourg. These microvesicles are released by the tumor and immune system cells and are present in the blood. According to Thayse, the goal is to develop a diagnosis using microvesicles, which are structures released by the tumor since its formation, when it is still difficult to detect by imaging, making this method less invasive and efficient in detecting the disease and monitoring the treatment .

“The microvesicles carry several characteristic molecules of the tumor, which allows the identification of its origin and communication with other organs. One of the functions of these microvesicles is to allow the tumor to grow and develop in other organs, causing metastasis, as its release reaches other organs through the blood and transforms it into a favorable environment for tumor growth”; explains.

Knowing in depth how the tumor relates to the body is a powerful tool in the fight against breast cancer and providing this type of personalized treatment for SUS patients is an advance in quality health care for all. .

The work developed by Thayse has the collaboration of the clinical team of mastology and oncology, the NEP researchers and the patients who accept to participate in the Center’s research.

Thayse highlights that working closely with breast cancer patients has brought a new perspective to my work. “Meeting these women who face this disease, often with a smile on their faces, inspires me every day to seek more diligently for a service that will make this journey more peaceful and effective.”

*Text written by the Study and Research Center (NEP) team

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