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FNR CORE scheme funds three research projects at LIH

20 January 2020 4minutes

The Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) supports multi-annual thematic research programmes with its central funding instrument CORE.  One research project submitted by LIH and another two developed in partnership with the Luxembourg Institute for Socio-Economic Research (LISER) and the University of Luxembourg, respectively, have been selected for this valuable third party funding by international expert committees. They shall start in early 2020.

ACTIVASION

Dr Clément Thomas, leading the Cytoskeleton and Cancer Progression research group at LIH’s Department of Oncology, will investigate the “Mechanistic aspects of actin cytoskeleton remodelling in tumour immune evasion” in the three-year CORE project ACTIVASION.

Immune evasion is a hallmark of cancer progression and represents a major hurdle to the design of effective therapeutic strategies. Dr Thomas’s team recently uncovered a widely conserved mechanism by which resistant tumour cells respond to immune effector cell attack. The researchers found that, upon attack by Natural Killer (NK) cells, a massive and rapid accumulation of actin occurs in resistant tumour cells at the immunological synapse, which is the cell-cell interaction interface used by immune cells to recognise and kill target cancer cells. The ACTIVASION project aims at exploring how this mechanism of cytoskeleton remodelling termed the “actin response” alters the structure and the function of the immunological synapse. Using state-of-the-art live cell imaging approaches, the team will depict the immunological defects caused by the actin response during the early steps of immune effector cell-tumour cell interaction. The researchers will also examine the prevalence of the actin response in pathological samples.

“This project shall lead to a better understanding of the fundamental mechanisms underlying tumour immune evasion. This is critical for the development of new immunotherapy strategies that trigger an effective anti-tumour response in a larger number of patients”

explains Dr Thomas.

APPEAL

Dr Valérie Moran, postdoctoral researcher in health economics with a joint appointment at LISER and LIH’s Department of Population Health, will lead the three-year CORE Junior project “Assessment of Primary Care Performance in Luxembourg” (APPEAL) in collaboration with other researchers in economics, sociology and statistics from LISER and LIH and under the mentorship of local and external senior scientists with expertise in health economics, performance assessment and international health system comparisons.

Primary care plays an important role in managing health problems, promoting health and preventing illness and can improve health outcomes, health system efficiency and equity. APPEAL will apply state-of-the-art methodology to rich and under-utilised data sources to inform improvements in performance by comparing Luxembourg to other European countries. It will investigate whether there is potential to increase efficiency in the delivery of care, by increasing quality (reducing hospital admissions for conditions treatable in primary care), using existing resources (rates of general practitioners (GPs)). APPEAL will also study why there are differences across countries in access, coordination, efficiency and quality of care by applying multi-level models to individual- and country-level data, and whether differences unexplained by these models indicate scope for improvement in Luxembourg. The researchers plan to evaluate a primary care policy introduced in the Grand Duchy to improve care coordination for patients, particularly those with chronic illnesses using propensity score matching and difference-in-differences methods applied to individual-level administrative data.

“By undertaking a comprehensive performance assessment of primary care in Luxembourg, this project addresses an important research gap identified by the FNR and can inform policy solutions that benefit users and payers of healthcare”

stresses Dr Moran.

ALAC

Finally, Dr Jonathan Turner, Group Leader and Deputy Head Finance & Funding at the Department of Infection and Immunity, will act as co-principal investigator in the CORE-funded “Age Acceleration and the Life Course” (ALAC) study, together with Dr Conchita D’Ambrosio from the University of Luxembourg. The project focuses on the effect of socioeconomic status on DNA methylation – i.e. an epigenetic modification correlated with gene repression which is known to play an important role in gene regulation and development – and will investigate how this type of modification is transferred from mother to child.

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