Eduard Batlle, Lilly Foundation Prize: “In five years’ time we will have treatments for colon cancer metastasis”

(From left to right):  Dr José Antonio Gutiérrez, Lilly Foundation honorary advisor; awardees Dr Luis Alberto Moreno Aznar and Dr Eduard Batlle; and Dr José Antonio Sacristán, director of the Lilly Foundation

(From left to right): Dr José Antonio Gutiérrez, Lilly Foundation honorary advisor; awardees Dr Luis Alberto Moreno Aznar and Dr Eduard Batlle; and Dr José Antonio Sacristán, director of the Lilly Foundation


In a ceremony in Madrid today presided by the State Secretary for Research Carmen Vela, the Lilly Foundation has presented Eduard Batlle with the 2016 Preclinical Research Prize.

Today the Lilly Foundation has presented Eduard Batlle, ICREA scientist and IRB Barcelona researcher, and Luis Alberto Moreno Aznar, full professor at the University of Zaragoza with the 2016 Preclinical and Clinical Research Prize, respectively. Chaired by the Secretary of State for Research, Development and Innovation, Carmen Vela, the official ceremony will be held this afternoon at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas in Madrid.

Eduard Batlle, coordinator of the Oncology Programme at IRB Barcelona and head of the Colorectal Cancer Lab, has been recognised for his pioneering research into colon cancer— work that has brought about breakthroughs in our understanding of the behaviour of the tumour and the factors that enhance its spread and later metastasis to other organs.

In the press conference held this morning, Batlle said, “we know quite a lot about primary colon tumours. Surgical removal of the tumour and pharmacological protocols are highly effective. However, the real problem isn’t the original tumour but its dissemination and metastasis. These processes have poor prognosis, and we do not know their underlying mechanisms." About 40% of patients relapse, mainly with liver and lung metastasis.”

The findings made by Dr. Eduard Batlle’s team have allowed them to determine that tumour cells interact with their immediate environment to instruct health cells to colonize and spread to other organs. Deciphering this cell language is crucial to understand the reasons why some patients relapse while others don’t and to develop strategies that prevent or block this communication before metastasis is triggered.

The results obtained by the IRB Barcelona researcher hold promise for future treatments of colon cancer—one of the tumours with greatest incidence in the Western world. "If everything goes well—and at the moment everything is—in five years’ time we may be able to have treatments based on this research. In science, this amount of time is considered very short, but clearly we would like to cut it back much further so that patients can benefit sooner," he explained.

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