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BCRF Grantee Since


Area(s) of Focus

Joaquin Arribas, PhD

Director, Medical Oncology Research Program
Vall d'Hebron University Hospital Research Institute
Barcelona, Spain

Current Research

HER2- positive (HER2+) breast cancers accounts for approximately 20% - 30% of all breast cancer cases. This type of breast cancer is characterized by high amount of a protein called HER2, which is located on the surface of the cell. Despite the clinical success of HER2-targeting drugs such as trastuzumab (Herceptin ®), some tumors do not respond to these treatments and others become resistant during the course of therapy and the drug stops working. Combination therapies may be a way to address drug resistance and improve clinical outcome, and therefore several combination strategies are currently being tested in clinical trials. Knowing early which tumors are mostly likely to respond to specific therapies will allow scientists to rationally design the most effective drug combinations for each type of HER-positive breast cancer. Dr. Arribas and his team are conducting studies to better understand how resistance to anti-HER2 therapies occurs. His group has generated an experimental model system in which pieces of human breast tumors are grown under laboratory conditions. The uniqueness of this model is that the experimental tumors become exact genetic and biological replicas of the human tumor, that are grown under laboratory conditions. Using this model, the researchers will generate tumors that are resistant to HER2-targeted drugs and will then test combination therapies to overcome the resistance. These studies represent important steps in identifying mechanisms of resistance to specific therapies and the development of new strategies to improve outcomes in HER2-positive breast cancers.


Dr. Joaquin Arribas is the Director of Preclinical Research Program at Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology in Barcelona, Spain, where he leads a group focused on the study of growth factors, growth factor receptors, and the proteases involved in remodeling the cell surface. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Translational Oncology, and CDB Protein Systems.

Dr. Arribas is member of the Spanish and American Societies of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and President of the Committee for the Evaluation of Cancer Research project at the Institute of Health Carlos III, a major public funding agency in Spain.

Dr. Arribas completed his undergraduate studies in biochemistry at the University of Madrid, where he subsequently worked on the regulation of the catalytic activities of the proteasome and received a PhD in biology in 1991. Sponsored by a fellowship from the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science, he joined Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York as a postdoctoral fellow to work with Dr. Joan Massague (1992-1996) on the proteolytic processing of transmembrane growth factors. In 1997, he joined the Oncology Department at Hospital Vall d'Hebron as a staff scientist and was promoted to lead the oncology research department in 2001. Dr. Arribas’s research has been recognized by the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), which honored him with a Young Investigator Program (YIP) Award. Also, Dr. Arribas received the Beckman Coulter Award conferred on the Best Young Spanish Investigator in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.