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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 cancer accounts for approximately 20- 30 percent of all breast cancer cases. Despite the clinical success of HER2-targeting drugs such as trastuzumab, 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. Work by Dr. Arribas’ laboratory has shown that HER2 causes breast cancer cells to stop growing– become senescent. While tumor cell senescence can be considered a good thing, because cells aren’t growing or dividing, they are not dead either. Paradoxically, even in this “quiet” state they can produce a wealth of factors that can promote tumor growth and metastasis and thereby contribute to tumor progression. Using different breast cancer models, Dr. Arribas and his team have shown that HER2-induced senescent cells help non-senescent cancer cells to metastasize. In the coming year they will work to identify compounds to block the production of pro-tumorigenic and pro-metastatic factors produced by senescent cells that may complement current anti-tumor therapies that induce senescence.


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.