Tumors in the pons, an area in the middle of the brainstem, are very aggressive. These so called diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas cannot be surgically removed because of the vital functions of the surrounding brain tissue. With radiation and chemotherapy growth can be repressed, but the prognosis is dismal with a median survival of only 10 months.
Rios will use advanced imaging technologies to look at tumor cells under the microscope. With 3D visualization of the tumors she can study how a pons glioma develops. She will gain insight into the growth of the malignant tissue that invades the pons.
In addition she will examine which genes are expressed in the tumor. By comparing this with gene expression in the healthy tissue, she will identify which factors contribute to the invasive character of pons gliomas. In the future Rios expects that this knowledge will lead to new therapeutic targets.
The ERC recognizes the importance and the innovative character of Rios’ research. With the amount of 1.5 million euro, Rios can expand her research group in the next five years. In total 3170 scientist applied for the ERC starting grant, which was ultimately awarded to 13 percent of the applicants.