ULISES makes visible the invisible

Using nanotechnologies as part of a new cancer treatment strategy

According to the statistics from the World Health Organization, cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, counting for approximately 9.6 million deaths in 2018. This figure is expected to increase by 60% in 2040 due to the aging and growing of the world’s population. While cancer treatments are currently based on surgical resection of the tumour (if possible), chemotherapy, radiotherapy, target-driven therapies and immunotherapy, the recently started FET-EIC Pathfinder project ULISES aims to set out an all-new therapeutic strategy based on nanotechnologies.


By using nanotechnologies to deliver plasmid DNA into tumorous cells for reprogramming, the ULISES project will develop a disruptive treatment that enables the immune system to see what has, until now, been invisible. This approach doesn’t seek to alter genetics of the cancer cells; rather it helps the immune system to recognise and attack these cells once they’ve been “flagged” as incompatible. This breakthrough therapy developed by researchers in the ULISES project will offer several advantages over current therapies: it provides a much greater efficiency, makes use of the patient’s own immune system to attack the cancerous cells, and provides fewer side effects thus seeing better patient outcomes. To implement and validate this therapeutic strategy, the ULISES team will focus on pancreatic cancer as it is not only highly aggressive but can also considerably reduce life expectancy as effective treatment is still lacking. In addition, this type of cancer has a similar incidence in women and men, so both sexes will benefit equally. Once the therapy is defined among pancreatic cancer patients, it can be easily adapted to other types.


Background information

FET-Open and FET Proactive are now part of the Enhanced European Innovation Council (EIC) Pilot (specifically the Pathfinder), the new home for deep-tech research and innovation in Horizon 2020, the EU funding programme for research and innovation


Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash