The Nano-oncology laboratory focuses in the generation of new tools for the diagnosis, evaluation and monitoring of cancer through the application of nanotechnology, with the aim of offering new products with application in oncology.

Therefore part of our research is centred in the formulation of nanoparticles based on biocompatible and biodegradable compounds with the capacity to interfere in the cell biology. On the other hand, our laboratory possess the capacity to modify these nanosystems through their functionalization, by the application of different chemical approaches. The modification of the nanosystems can be done with different ligands (antibodies, aptamers or peptides), with the aim of targeting, therefore generating new tools for the isolation and culture of Circulating Tumor Cells (CTCs). Moreover, due to the biocompatibility of the formulated functionalized nanoparticles they can be applied for therapy.

Furthermore, we are developing diagnostic tools for the detection of biomarkers which are involved in cancer metastasis, by exploiting the optical properties of inorganic nanoparticles. Therefore, we synthesize metallic nanoparticles, principally gold nanoparticles, following by their functionalization with different ligands. The modification of physico-chemical properties of these nanoparticles and consequently their of their optical properties modification, offer the new tools in the detection of circulating tumor material.

The nano-oncology laboratory as part of the Joint Unit, has formulated nanoemulsions from lipids and fatty acids with the capability to interfere in the cellular metabolism. These nanoemulsions had proved their ability to increase the cellular proliferation of a Circulation tumour Cell (CTCs) line model (, resulting in a very promising system to promote the culture of low proliferative cell lines. Likewise, these nanoemulsions are easily adaptable in terms of their components and structural modification, being a versatile system with multiple applications (

Moreover, by using the nanoemulsions, we have designed a protocol to generate of short-term cell cultures (23 days) of CTCs isolated from patients ( This protocol has allowed the cultivation and characterization CTCs isolated from metastatic breast cancer patients. The characterization of these cells has made possible to demonstrate the change of these cells from a more epithelial phenotypic to a more mesenchymal one, due to the culture characteristics. On the other hand, these CTCs short-term cultures have proved to be a useful tool to predict progression-free survival in patients.

Related to the detection and isolation of CTCs, we have modified nanoemulsion with different ligands and proved their target capacity towards CTCs membrane proteins.

Additionally, focusing on the optical properties nanoparticles we have developed systems for the detection of cancer biomarkers (circulating tumour material). These systems allow the detection of biomarkers in plasma of patients in a simple way, fast and inexpensive way.

Dr. Ana Belén Dávila Ibañez, is the responsible of the Nano-oncology laboratory of the Roche-Chus Joint Unit



Ana Belén Dávila Ibáñez
Head of the Liquid Nano-Oncology Line of the Roche-Chus Joint Unit
Carmen Abuín Redondo
Laboratory Technician of the Roche-Chus Joint Unit
Virginia Rodríguez Tejada
Predoctoral student of the Roche-Chus
Nuria Carmona Ule
Predoctoral student of the Nano-Oncology line of the Roche-Chus joint Unit

La Unidad Mixta Roche-Chus está cofinanciada por la Axencia Galega de Innovación, GAIN de la Xunta de Galicia: “Subvención a organismos de investigación de Galicia para a creación, posta en marcha e impulso de Unidades Mixtas de Investigación” de la Xunta de Galicia en el marco del Plan Galego de Investigación, Innovación e Crecemento- i2C.