Research Program. Precision Nutrition and Cancer

Molecular Oncology Group

Group leader: Dr. Ana Ramírez de Molina

Objectives: the group is currently focused on three research topics:

  • Lipid metabolism disorders in cancer: identification of new biomarkers and therapeutic targets in diet-related tumors. In this subject, the work of our group mainly focuses on the analysis of lipid metabolism alterations in cancer. Most specifically, we aim at studying the special energetic and structural requirements of tumor cells as well as identifying novel biomarkers of progression and response to therapy, which may represent new therapeutic targets. To this end, in close collaboration with the divisions of Medical Oncology from several hospitals, we analyze clinical samples from cancer patients using state-of-the-art genomic approaches.

  • Gene expression analysis, identification of gene variants and epigenetic regulation by microRNAs of lipid metabolism pathways are then used to study their association with the clinical outcome of the disease. Furthermore, we perform functional studies both using conventional and three-dimensional cell culture such as organoids, and animal models to investigate the role of identified genes and microRNAs. We are especially interested in identifying metabolic profiles associated to the disease progression and analyzing their role from in-vitro cell systems to cancer patients. These analyses are mainly focused on the identification of metabolic pathways and distinctive oncometabolites that may constitute novel markers and targets for the development of future cancer therapies, as well as the genetic basis of the relationship between obesity, associated metabolic disorders and cancer.

  • Activity and mechanism of action of bioactive compounds as potential effective dietary supplements in cancer prevention and treatment. We evaluate the activity and molecular mechanism of action of bioactive compounds that may have a therapeutic use in cancer, either alone or in combination with existing chemotherapy. The aim is to establish the scientific basis for the development of nutritional supplements that may exert a beneficial effect on the disease. In close collaboration with the Bioactive Food Ingredients Group from the Research Institute of Food Science (CIAL, CSIC-UAM), we design and characterize different formulations of bioactive compounds. We combine genomics and functional studies in cell lines and intestinal organoids to determine the effect and target populations for personalized therapeutic use of these formulations.

  • These products are further evaluated in animal models and finally, in clinical trials in healthy volunteers or cancer patients. Recently, we have evaluated the antitumor effect of a supercritical extract of rosemary approved as safe for human use by EFSA. Such extract inhibits proliferation, induces cell death, and potentiates the effect of chemotherapy, both in sensitive and resistant colon cancer cells. Its formulation for human consumption shows an immunomodulatory effect in healthy volunteers and it is currently being used in a phase-I clinical trial in cancer patients.

Dr. Ana Ramírez de Molina

Deputy Director, Director of the Precision Nutrition Program and Group leader of the Molecular Oncology Group.

Dr. Ana Ramírez de Molina has developed her scientific career in the field of lipid metabolism, molecular oncology, nutrition and cancer. She has worked as an associated researcher in the Traslational Oncology Unit CSIC-UAM-La Paz Hospital (Madrid), and has performed long postdoctoral stays at Cancer Research UK Centre for Therapeutics (London) and the Molecular Pathology Division of the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (New York). She has published more than 60 scientific articles in her research field, is co-inventor of 6 patents in different phases of exploitation by a biotechnology company and has supervised 6 PhD Thesis.

Several of her patents promoted the creation of a spin-off company from CSIC focused on the development of new tumour markers and therapies in Cancer in which she was former Director of Research, Development and Innovation for more than 3 years. She joined IMDEA Food Institute in 2010, where she leads the Programe of Precision Nutrition and Cancer. From 2011 she has been the Coordinator of Research, Development and Transfer, and in 2014 was promoted to Deputy Director of the Institute.

In 2002 she was awarded with the prize Young Researchers MSD, in 2003 the extraordinary doctorate recognition as the best Thesis of her promotion in Molecular Biology, and in 2016 the 8th March distinction from the Community of Madrid as an outstanding woman in Science.

Phone: +34 91 727 81 00, ext. 102


Visiting researchers

Dr. Elena María Arranz Gutiérrez
University of Guelph(Canada)
Food Science Department


Jesús del Barrio Morán
Marta Blanco López
Amanda Sousa
Diego Portillo Liso
Irene Marina Beltrán de Heredia Anguita