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Jean-Frédéric SAUNIÈRE, MD, PhD

is in charge of developing Translational Medicine at IPC. Dr Saunière is the touchstone of the matricial organisation for translational medicine development at IPC.He serves as liaison with the Pharmaceutical industry, initiates and conducts collaborations with industrials and establishes International network for early clinical studies.

Questions to Dr Jean-Frédéric Saunière

What is the mission of the translational research cell?

In recent years, oncology has made enormous progress. We better understand the biology of the disease, our diagnoses are more accurate and our treatments increasingly targeted. This progress is fed from advances in science and technology but they also corresponds to a profound change. This new personalized medicine that combines biomarkers, targeted drugs and molecular imaging has not only helped to add science and technology in the clinic but also in clinical research: all new discoveries in cancer therapeutic targets need to have both appropriate models and the experimental study of patient samples.

Our mission is to ensure that these two worlds, that clinicians and scientists working together to develop innovative proposals, quickly convert these proposals into new diagnostic and therapeutic options so that the patient keeps a step ahead of his illness.

How easy is it to make this reciprocal exchange between the fundamental and the clinic?

At the IPC, translational research is based on project teams with experts in our therapeutic areas of excellence: blood cancers (leukemias and lymphomas), breast tumors, gastrointestinal cancers (colon, stomach and pancreatic), urological cancers (cancers of the kidney, prostate and bladder) and gynecological tumors (cancers of the uterus and ovary).

Oncologists, surgeons, radiotherapists, biopathologists, basic researchers and specialists in applied research (experts on biomarkers in preclinical models ...), each team is responsible for identifying high-potential molecules that are then evaluated in animals and humans by the IPC (alone or in partnership).

Obviously, exchanges are not only vertical between the fundamental and the clinic, they are horizontal, between groups. For example, the specialist in PI3K/AKT signaling pathway is working with several teams because this mechanism is involved in renal cancers, breast and certain hematologic malignancies. In the same vein, we have implemented a transverse structure to allow each group to "steal" ideas or other molecules. Thus, given the scientific rationale of a tyrosine kinase inhibitor and its efficacy in some forms of chronic myeloid leukemia, the group of Jean Luc Raoul recently launched a clinical trial in gastrointestinal stromal tumors with the same product.

Finally, these five teams have the know-how and technology of the IPC: an integrated biological laboratory to identify genetic abnormalities or establish the identity card of the tumors (genomic, expression profiling, proteomics); of animal models of human disease and 80 000 samples from our biobank challenger for new therapeutic targets; an immunomonitoring platform to quantify and qualify the immune response of patients to these new molecules and imaging and advanced medical science techniques such as endoscopy to evaluate their functional effect in situ.

Is implementation of partnerships the other facet of your mission?

Of course, translational research can not be conceived without partnerships with institutes and industries that bring us their expertise, their molecules and specific technology platforms available to them.

Today, nearly 800 molecules are being evaluated in clinical oncology. Among these studies, 70% are conducted by biopharmaceutical companies. In parallel studies we conduct alone or in partnership with other institutions, we work closely with drug professionals to accelerate the development of more active therapies and ensure that our patients get quick access to the best of innovation in cancer therapy.

Public / private partnerships are a prerequisite for innovation. Manufacturers of biopharmaceuticals know the drug. At the IPC we know the patients and the disease and have long been experienced in quality standards of the industry. For the oncologist and patient this is a win / win partnership.

L’appui des plateformes technologiques

Les équipes de recherche translationnelle bénéficient des savoir-faire et des technologies de l’IPC : laboratoire de biologie intégré pour identifier des anomalies génétiques ou établir la carte d’identité des tumeurs (génomique, profil d’expression, protéomique), modèles animaux, échantillons de la tumorothèque pour challenger de nouvelles cibles thérapeutiques, plateforme d’immunomonitoring permettant de quantifier et de qualifier la réponse immunitaire des patients à ces nouvelles molécules, imagerie scientifique et médicale de pointe pour évaluer leur effet in situ.

Close-up: ETOH


To accelerate the evaluation of innovative therapeutic approaches but also to ensure the level of care and quality of the process imposed by this type of trial, the IPC has created ETOH (Evaluation of Therapeutic Onco-Hematology), a unit dedicated exclusively to early clinical trials.

Approved and labeled by the ARS and granted by INCa in 2010, ETOH is the platform of PACA region for evaluating new drugs (in solid tumors and hematology).

Installed on 250 sqm on the 5th floor of the main building (IPC1), the ETOH unit is run by a highly specialized team of 16 people. It has:

  • 9 single rooms (5 beds are available on an outpatient basis),
  • a treatment room,
  • monitoring tools and
  • a specific area allowing immediate treatment of blood and urine samples.