Appointment “Constraint leads to adaptation”

Interview with Pr. Pascal Barbry, workpackage leader “plateforms & innovations” in OncoAge federation.

Team “Genomic physiology of eukaryotes” at IPMC (Institut de Pharmacologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire)

Pascal Barbry

What challenges has the emergence of the SARS-CoV 2 pandemic brought in terms of structural organisation and research in your activity ?
“My lab has lost a lot of money: (1) several expensive experiments were interrupted abruptly at the first lockdown; (2) several people hired on short term contracts were payed to stay at home during the lockdown (difficult to do wetlab experiments from home!), and they then left the lab shortly after, because they were arriving at the end of their term according to the well known counstraints of the “Sauvadet Law”. So, they were trained… for others! That’s just a waste…My lab has lost a lot of money: (1) several expensive experiments were interrupted abruptly at the first lockdown; (2) several people hired on short term contracts were payed to stay at home during the lockdown (difficult to do wetlab experiments from home!), and they then left the lab shortly after, because they were arriving at the end of their term according to the well known counstraints of the “Sauvadet Law”. So, they were trained… for others! That’s just a waste…”

What adaptations may have been necessary from a management running and team/projects management point of views ?
“We have published several important works about the nasal and lung cells that interact with the virus. Our long-standing interest for these cells helped a lot to elucidate that question, and this led to several high impact publications in Nature Medicine and Cell. This was done essentially by using information that was already available from our past work. We then set up several project to study more directly the impact of SARS-CoV2 in our models. We are currently working with the Adult Pulmonology Unit of the Nice University Hospital, to detect the early events of the interaction between the virus and its host. Many aspects of our present work on the COVID are just a prolongation of what we were doing before, except that we need to increase our safety rules.”

• With which partners did you collaborate in order to participate in the collective global effort against COVID-19 ? What have been the pros & cons of such ventures ?
“We have also started a collaboration with the Metropole Nice Cote d’Azur, in order to characterize the different lineages of the virus that can be detected in wastewater. This has been a very interesting and producing collaboration, and our work has alerted about the early development of the english variant in specific area of the city. We are now working together in order to transfer this type of surveillance to Metropole services.”

• What kind of results and/or highlights & innovations did these partnerships/organisation procure in terms of improved knowledge and understanding of how the virus works ?
“Identiftying exact areas where specific forms of the virus are most active informs about future risks in the city. This can help the authorities to orient their policy on specific actions (information to people living in specific areas, special vaccination campaigns, etc) before the propagation of the virus to the whole city. From an academic point of view, it is a real life example in which you can see how biological entitities evolve and interact with their environment. An amazing illustration of Darwin’s theory!”

• What are your prospects for the future in terms of research project orientation ?
“We are also collaborating with industrials partners in order to set up a sustainable economic model to monitor wastewater. A lot still needs to be done, but I strongly believe that monitoring microbes in wastewater by sequencing can offer many opportunities for a safer future, and for rediscovering life’s little pleasures!”

Appointment “Constraint leads to adaptation”

Interview with Pr. Thierry Passeron, Deputy Director of the OncoAge federation, leader of the research axis “Dermato-Oncology” (melanomas and skin ageing), University hospital of Nice.

What challenges has the emergence of the SARS-CoV 2 pandemic brought in terms of structural organisation and research in your activity ?
“The first wave of the pandemic had a huge impact in our activity has most of our consultations were cancelled and we only kept the most severe cases in our hospitalization unit. We had to adapt and make teleconsultations. Although such teleconsulations can be useful for the follow-up of systemic treatment and it is not satisfactory for new patients that required a diagnosis or for the follow-up of naevi. This abrupt decrease in our clinical consulting activity had a major impact in term of prevention (late diagnosis of melanomas for example) and the limited possibilities of hospitalizations was deleterious for many patients as we are the only dermatological department in the area. Now, we have adapted our organization and we can almost normally see patients in consultations and we have less limitations for the hospitalization, although the situation remains sometimes in tension and there are delay for some patients to be hospitalized in our unit. For the clinical research we managed to continue following our patients in clinical trials. That was not easy and required here also a new organization but it was our priority as these patients are suffering from metastatic skin cancers or severe inflammatory skin diseases. Finally, our INSERM lab was completely shut down for several weeks. That was terrible for the ongoing researches. Since May we have reorganized the organization in the lab (less people coming at the same time, sanitary measures…) and we can almost work normally.”

What adaptations may have been necessary from a management running and team/projects management point of views ?
“We initially had to halt some projects. Thus, after concertation with all the people involved we decided what projects were our priority and focus on them. People and available resources were readdressed to those projects. Hopefully, this situation get improved and progressively we managed to continued halted projects.”

• With which partners did you collaborate in order to participate in the collective global effort against COVID-19 ? What have been the pros & cons of such ventures ?
“We rapidly saw that SARS-CoV-2 is giving a wide range of dermatological manifestations. We actively participate to the care of COVID-19 infected patient and open a dedicated dermatological consultation. We submit to the IRB a cohort study on chilblains. We worked together with infectious diseases specialists, pathologists, intensive care units, virologists and immunologits. Such a collaboration was very fruitful and exciting. The counterparts was the other projects that we had to put on hold.”

• What kind of results and/or highlights & innovations did these partnerships/organisation procure in terms of improved knowledge and understanding of how the virus works ?
“We described the clinical, biological and histological presentation of chilblains associated to COVID-19. We also managed to understand the mechansims of chilblains associated with SARS-CoV-2 and demonstrated that this is due to a type-I interferonopathy. Finally, we also found that the SARS-CoV-2 is also targeting the pericytes.”

• What are your prospects for the future in terms of research project orientation ?
“We are actually assessing our chilblains cohort during the second wave. Interestingly we found that more than 60% of the patients had relapsed during this second wave. Many patients with relapses had new COVID-19 cases in their household (there were also some simultaneous familial cases of chilblains). No possible or proven COVID-19 infection was reported in the group who did not relapse. This study is actually submitted for publication.”




Leader : Prof. Sabrina Sacconi
Co-organizers : Dr. Rémy Collomp, Prof. Thomas Cluzeau

The development of innovative therapies in cancer, neuromuscular and neurogenetic diseases as well as ageing represents domains with major investments from pharmaceutical companies at the global level within a competitive environment. Hence, patient care, professional practices and regulations move forward rapidly. Given those fast and important changes, this D.U. provides an overview of those therapies to be considered, their application in the 3 main domains including demonstration of common practice, but also a methodological approach to implement innovative therapeutic trials and treatments. The educational team is multidisciplinary and interprofessional on purpose in order to cover the different scopes of interest.


This training session is accessible to medical professionals (physicians, pharmacists), paramedical hospital staff, trainee physicians or pharmacists, hospital staff such as research or biomedical engineer with practice in a PUI (Pharmacie à usage intérieur) or in a Gene and Cell Therapy Unit (UTCG).

Registration from August 15th to October 18th 2020 on the website of Faculté de Médecine de Nice :



FHU OncoAge coordinator of the TABADO 2 project: Support for smoking cessation

INCaThe National Cancer Institute (INCa), in conjunction with a regional health authorities and local health promotion players, has chosen the OncoAge Federation to pilot the “TABADO 2” smoking cessation support system in the Southern Region. In 2018, the INCa decided to coordinate the deployment of the programme in seven French regions. This project targets teenage smokers, aged between 15 and 20 years old, following a training course in a vocational high school, CFA and MFR throughout the south region (PACA). The programme’s initiation phase is currently underway in order to prepare its deployment for the 2020/2021 school year.

The TABADO programme helps teenagers to quit smoking and explores new aspects in supporting smoking cessation in a high-risk adolescent population. It combines a twofold approach already recognized as effective for adults and integrates the main criteria for successful stopping smoking among adolescents: accessibility through free access and proximity. In partnership with the Addictology Support and Prevention care center (CSAPA), TABADO is mobilizing all the players in the health sector, as well as those in national education and agriculture, around a major public health issue that is part of the national tobacco control programme, thus creating a collective dynamic between the different parties.

The aim of the system is to identify and prevent smoking rather than to repair it, and it introduces a shift from an individual issue to collective support. Marked by its empirical dimension and taking up the codes of the sporting world, the project is built around three key stages:

  • An initial information session to present the effects of smoking and its consequences on health, to motivate and recruit smokers to follow the programme with the aim of stopping smoking but also to inform students of the “TABADO Games” aimed at creating an emulation around participation in the programme via an inter-establishment competition to stop smoking.

  • Individual consultations led by a health professional trained in tobaccoology with the aim of making a personalised diagnosis of the subject’s smoking, proposing an adapted withdrawal and possibly delivering a free nicotine substitute treatment (TSN).

  • Motivational workshops for 5 to 10 people, allowing a real follow-up of the students, but also to reinforce motivation and support the cessation in order to prevent relapses (supportive psychotherapy).

These three steps constitute the path towards quitting smoking, they are also the way to join the challenge of the “TABADO Games” so that a collective support emerges within the school. Effective, free and motivating, TABADO has proven its worth with twice as many smokers quitting in the establishments offering it. Intervening early on one’s addiction is effective in reducing the risks to one’s health. The development of the TABADO program in several French regions ensures that the system can be deployed on a large scale. Its ambition is to protect young people as a priority and to fight against social inequalities.







For more information:

Article in THE LANCET : Circulating tumour cells as a potential biomarker for lung cancer screening: a prospective cohort study

New article in THE LANCET

2020 July

Autors :

Charles-Hugo Marquette, Jacques Boutros, Jonathan Benzaquen, Marion Ferreira, Jean Pastre, Christophe Pison, Bernard Padovani, Faiza Bettayeb,
Vincent Fallet, Nicolas Guibert, Damien Basille, Marius Ilie, Véronique Hofman, Paul Hofman, on behalf of the AIR project Study Group†


Background Lung cancer screening with low-dose chest CT (LDCT) reduces the mortality of eligible individuals. Blood
signatures might act as a standalone screening tool, refine the selection of patients at risk, or help to classify
undetermined nodules detected on LDCT. We previously showed that circulating tumour cells (CTCs) could be
detected, using the isolation by size of epithelial tumour cell technique (ISET), long before the cancer was diagnosed
radiologically. We aimed to test whether CTCs could be used as a biomarker for lung cancer screening.


Full article here

Appointment of Dr. Rabia Boulahssass, Onco-geriatrician

Dr. Rabia Boulahssass Onco-geriatrician

Biography :

Rabia Boulahssass is a geriatrician at the University Hospital of Nice. Since 2012, she has been focusing on geriatric assessment in older adults with cancer with a strong partnership with the Lacassagne Cancer Center in Nice, France. In 2012, She set up the PACA EST Coordination Unit in Geriatric Oncology with Pr Olivier Guerin (CHU de Nice)  and Dr Eric Francois Centre Antoine Lacassagne, CLCC, Nice). The unit was created in order to improve care, research and teaching in the elderly population with the support of the French National Institute of Cancer. She is the principal investigator or the PACA EST cohort (n>4800 patients), this multicentre prospective cohort is dedicated to observe older patients with cancer in the French Riviera. Her main research interests are prediction of early death, geriatric assessment , geriatric interventions and quality of life. Since 2017, She is the general secretary of the SOFOG (French National Society of Geriatric Oncology). Dr Boulahssass is the National representative for France for the SIOG (International Society of Geriatric Oncology). National representatives act as ambassadors of SIOG’s mission, sharing the same values and pursuing the same objectives, in the joint effort to promote progress and innovation in geriatric oncology. She is a Copil Member of GERICO (National research group for geriatric oncology in France/ UNICANCER) and of PACAN ( methodological platform for research in geriatric oncology) . She participates to the scientific committee of the SOFOG (French National Society of Geriatric Oncology) and the ASRO research group (which promote the research in geriatric oncology in the southeast of France).She is at the head of the geriatric ethical committee of the teaching hospital of Nice.  In 2016, she joined the hospital federation for research OncoAge drived by Pr Paul Hofman.


Interview :

  • What research, innovations or major advances in knowledge are you currently focusing on, especially on oncogeriatric feld ?

Today’s challenges in geriatric oncology are to screen patients who require geriatric follow-up with repeated CGA and to provide them with specific guided interventions  in order to improve the necessary care plan.  In this context , we are focusing in the creation of a numeric platform in our area in the south east of France in order to provide to older patients with cancer the best follow-up ( care, take care, case management, hotline , upgrade the links with all the healthpartners) .  This platform is one of the 16 projects in the program “BIEN VEILLIR” drived by the teaching hospital of NICE , France. (Pr Guerin).

Concerning the COVID 19 pandemic, We, the Société Francophone d’Onco-Gériatrie (SoFOG) and the French cooperative group for clinical research in geriatric oncology DIALOG (GERICO-UCOG), we recently analyzed and proposed comments on taking care of older patients with cancer in the context of COVID-19 pandemic ( Mourey et al Lancet Oncol 2020) to promote innovative care plans and organizations in this context.


  • You are currently working on many research projects, can you tell us a few words about them?

The PACA EST cohort (n>4800 patients) is a multicentre prospective cohort dedicated to older patients with cancer in the French Riviera.Our main research interests are prediction of early death, geriatric assessment, geriatric intervention  and quality of life in geriatric oncology. `( Prediction of early death n=1050 Boulahssass et al , Geriatric interventions n=3140 EJC 2018, Boulahssass et al , Cancers(basel) 2019)

Recently we finalized a ancillary phase I/II study on quality of life in older patients receiving accelerated partial breast irradiation using a single fraction of multi-catheter interstitial high dose brachytherapy.SiFEBI PHASE I/II TRIAL, with a strong partnership with Pr Hannoun Levi who runs the SiFEBI trial (radiotherapist at the Lacassagne Cancer Center, Nice, France,) (in submission).

Our team conducts also a study in nonagerian patients with cancer (n=100) (in finalization ) , the aim of this study was to analyze the treatment made in this growing population.

And a study on fatigue in older patients with cancer (Cancer related fatigue (CRF) before oncologic treatments: Fatigue related factors and analyses of early death associated to fatigue—AST-ELD study, a prospective cohort study with 979 elderly cancer patients. )(in finalization). This paper have received the award of the best oral communication at the European Congrés of geriatric (EUGMS) ( preliminary results of this study were presented at the EUGMS in Nice 2017)

In term of project, we would like to submit in 2021 a PHRC focussing on epigenetic and outcomes in older adults with colon cancer ( partners : CAL, Inserm, CHU) with Mohamed Benahmed . (Inserm researcher) .


  • You are one of the contributors of the Encyclopedia of Gerontology and Population Aging, can you tell us a few words about this big project ?

This big project (Springer Nature ) runs with Pr. Paul Hofman will provide a comprehensive reference work in geriatric oncology with 32 chapters from international leaders  ( France, swiss, USA, Belgium, Brazil, Norway, Chili, Netherland)


Simon HEEKE- PhD student at LPCE to Postdoctoral at MD Anderson

University Côte d’Azur PhD student at Institute for Research on Cancer and Aging, LPCE Nice (FRANCE)

December 2019 : Best Oral Communication Award


Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer related deathworldwide. Several genomic alterations can be directlytargeted by specific therapies, thus improving the survival ofthese patients. However, the administration of these therapies requires the analysis of tumor material that is usually very scarce and can only be accessed by invasive procedures that are not always possible. Simon Heeke has been involved in the development of non-invasive tests based on a “liquidbiopsy” that requires only the patient’s blood to analyze circulating tumor cells and is therefore much less invasive. 

He has been a former PhD student in the laboratory of Prof. Paul Hofman at the LPCE (CHU de Nice) and IRCAN in Nice and has completed his PhD in December 2019 with the title:Development and implementation of novel predictive biomarkers in non-small cell lung cancer  from tissue toliquid biopsy”. Following his PhD, he joined the MD Anderson Cancer Center for a Postdoctoral Fellowship in March 2020.


Testimonial :

While my PhD in Nice, I had the great pleasure to get in touch with renowned experts of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, the world’s leading Cancer Center, during the 1st FHU Oncoage Joint Meeting on Lung Cancer taking place in Nice in 2018. This exchange was further strengthened during the 2nd Joint Meeting on Lung Cancer in 2019 in Houston. Following this meeting, I had the great opportunity to join the laboratory of Prof. John V. Heymach as Postdoctoral Fellow. As part of the Department of Thoracic Head & Neck Medical Oncology, the main focus of the laboratory lies on the development of novel innovative therapies against lung cancer. I joined the team in March 2020, but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I spend most of the time working remotely. Nevertheless, I was very well introduced in the team and could rapidly establishnew collaborations with various researchers. Thanks to the data analysis skills that I gained during my PhD in the LPCE Nice, much work is done in silico.

In the lab of Prof. Heymach (link), I continue my work on biomarkers for an effective treatment in lung cancer with a special interest on liquid biopsies to guide a truly personalized treatment strategy for each patient. This work is mainlyenabled by having access to a huge collection of patient derived material obtained during the numerous clinical trials that are ongoing at the Center. While access to the lab is possible since few weeks, face masks are compulsory inside and outside of the lab at any time (see Photo). However, social distancing is easiest in those times by enjoying the stunningly beautiful nature of Texas.

In summary, working at the MD Anderson is a certainly very stimulating experience and research is fast and focused even when working remotely and I am grateful for having the great opportunity to be part of the MD Anderson Cancer Center, which was enabled by the FHU Oncoage and the personal investment of Prof. Paul Hofman.

New project : Post-transcriptional plasticity in cellular adaptation to tumorigenesis and chemoresistance: new models and tools

Post-transcriptional plasticity in cellular adaptation to tumorigenesis and chemoresistance: new models and tools

  • Funding: INCA
  • Partnership : IRCAN & IBV
  • Duration : 3 years

Small Cell Lung Cancers (SCLC) are fast evolving tumors, characterized by rapid growth, quick metastasis, and despite sensitivity to initial systemic cytotoxic  chemotherapy, SCLCs quickly develop chemotherapy resistance. Although mRNA translation control is critical to the rapid adaptation of gene expression to stress, its contribution to cellular survival and chemoresistance in the tumor microenvironment remains to be established.
Translationally repressed mRNAs are stored in P-bodies and are of particular relevance to study tumorigenesis because they control cell proliferation, differentiation, and resistance to stress, and they can be quickly mobilized to adapt gene expression to cellular needs. In addition, deregulation of the expression of P-body components is a signature of SCLC as revealed by our recent analysis. In the model organism C. elegans, disruption of P-body regulatory components induces tumorigenesis. Here, using these two complementary models, SCLC spheroids and induced C. elegans tumors, we will assess how alterations in P-body post-transcriptional pathways participate to tumorigenesis and stress resistance.

We aim to: (1) identify post-transcriptional signatures of SCLC tumors and oxidative stress resistance, (2) dissect how these post-transcriptional regulations participate to resistance in a tumor context, and (3) develop candidate and screen approaches to target P-body remodeling in tumors. By developing cutting edge sequencing methods and adapting two complementary models, we will provide a comprehensive and mechanistic view of the plasticity of RNA translation control during tumorogenesis and in response to oxidative stress using an approach distinct from the classical methods used to identify transcriptional signatures.

Open Questions for Harnessing Autophagy-Modulating Drugs in the SARS-CoV-2 War

New article in Autophagy

From : Brest P, Benzaquen J, J.Klionsky D, Hofman P, Mograbi B.

2020 APRIL 3 ;1 : 0022


At a time when the world faces an emotional breakdown, crushing our dreams if not taking our lives, we realize that together we must fight the war against the COVID-19 outbreak even if almost the majority of the scientific community finds itself confined to home. Every day, like everyone else, we, scientists, listen to the latest news with its promises and announcements. Across the world, a surge of clinical trials trying to cure or slow down the coronavirus pandemic has been launched to bring hope instead of fear and despair. One of the most recent has drawn worldwide hype to the possible benefit of chloroquine (CQ), a well-known and broadly used anti-malarial drug, in the treatment of patients infected by the recently emerged deadly coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). We should consider this information in the light of the long-standing anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties of CQ-related drugs. Yet, none of these articles evoked a possible molecular or cellular mechanism of action that could account for any efficacy. Here, given the interaction of viruses with macroautophagy (hereafter referred to as autophagy), a CQ-sensitive anti-viral safeguard pathway, we would like to discuss some pros and cons concerning the current therapeutic options targeting this process.

Full article

Editorial m/s – Un objectif de santé publique : le vieillissement durable

Editorial dans medecine/sciences 2020, par Eric GILSON

Un objectif de santé publique : le vieillissement durable

Le vieillissement est généralement vu par les biologistes comme une diminution progressive de la fonctionnalité des organes, pou- vant aboutir à la mort. Il s’accompagne d’une augmentation de la susceptibilité de développer de nombreux cancers et maladies dégénératives pouvant toucher la quasi-totalité des organes (maladies neurodégénératives, cardio-vasculaires, métabo- liques, pulmonaires et articulaires pour n’en citer que quelques unes). Savoir si le vieillissement est un processus programmé, comme l’est le développement, dont il pourrait constituer l’épi- logue, ou simplement une accumulation aléatoire de dommages est une question polémique. En d’autres termes, existe-t-il une biologie propre du vieillissement ou simplement des situations physiopathologiques liées à la dégénérescence des organes et des systèmes ? Cette question est fondamentale…

Article complet ms edito