Jesus Banales, PhD



Jesus Banales


Biodonostia Health Research Institute - Donostia Univ. Hospital (BHRI-DUH), San Sebastian (Spain)

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born in Pamplona (Spain) in 1979, graduated in Biochemistry (2001) and obtained my PhD (2006) from the Univ. Navarra (UNAV) studying the molecular mechanisms of bile flow generation/regulation in healthy and cholestatic conditions. Then, I moved to the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN) to carry out a posdoc (2006-2008, 2010; under the supervision of Prof. Nicholas F. LaRusso) focused on the study of the sensory features of the cholangiocyte primary cilium and the pathogenesis of polycystic liver diseases. After my training in National (UNAV) and International (Servier Laboratories, Paris; Univ. Colorado, USA; Mayo Clinic, USA) Institutions, I joined the BHRI-DUH (San Sebastian, Spain) in 2012 as Head of the Liver Diseases Group, which currently contains 3 subgroups and 30 multidisciplinary scientists (molecular biologists, hepatologists, oncologists, radiologists and surgeons). Our group is focused on studying the molecular mechanisms involved in liver pathobiology (cholestasis, chronic liver injury, polycystic liver diseases, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma), and looking for new diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic strategies. In 2020 I was promoted to Professor of Biomedine at Ikerbasque (Basque Foundation of Science).

Can you share one or two of your specific research interests?

Regarding cholangiocarcinoma, we are interested in the study of the genetic, epigenetic and molecular mechanisms involved in the malignant transformation of cholangiocytes, and in the mechanism of cancer progression, in order to search for accurate non-invasive biomarkers (diagnostic and prognostic) and new targets for therapeutic intervention. Moreover, in collaboration with chemists from the Basque Country, we are developing new chemotherapeutic drugs for their preclinical evaluation in cholangiocarcinoma. Finally, we are deeply collaborating within the European Network for the Study of Cholangiocarcinoma (ENS-CCA; / for the multidisciplinary study of this cancer within international collaborative research programs, including the European Cholangiocarcinoma Registry (E-CCA Registry) of patients.

Why did you decide to specialize in hepatobiliary cancers?

All my scientific carrier has been focused in the study of liver pathobiology. I find the liver a very exciting organ, with unique regenerative capacity and immunobiology, and major functions for the human body. In particular, I put special attention into the biliary system, evaluating the role of cholangiocytes in the regulation of the bile flow and immune-tolerance, as well as their alterations under different cholangiopathies, including cholangiocarcinoma. Due to the low awareness and knowledge on cholangiocarcinoma, and the dismal outcome of patients this cancer, I decided in 2012 to focus my attention and studies in cholangiocarcinoma. Then, in 2015, together with a group of friends and colleagues from the field, we created ENS-CCA, which is currently an important scientific network for the multidisciplinary study of cholangiocarcinoma, and an EASL (European Association for the Study of the Liver) consortium.

Can you describe one of the unforgettable moments in your patients care or research that has impacted your career?

An unforgettable moment was the first time I attended the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation Meeting in 2019. I became so impressed about such unique meeting, which involves scientists, clinicians, patients, caregivers, advocates, and pharmaceutical companies with the only aim to improve patient´s care and life. I was impressed about the personal support and recognition received by the patients, which strongly motivate me for keep investigating on this cancer.

Can you tell us one thing collaboration with colleagues could accomplish that you could not accomplish on your own?

Science is a "we" not an "I". This is a team effort that requires fair collaborations with other groups to move faster and better. ENS-CCA and ICRN are good examples of the importance of international collaborations. In science, there are multiple things interesting but less important. The important goal for cholangiocarcinoma is to improve the life of the people, so we must not to forget what is important when investigating interesting issues, and priorate the time and translation of the knowledge.

If you had access to one resource that would move your research forward, what would that resource be?

To involve more young scientists in the study of cholangiocarcinoma. Although material resources are fundamental, the most important talent in a research group is the people. We must to support, train and retain young talent scientists for working in this field in order to increase the knowledge on cholangiocarcinoma and the care and treatment of patients.

How did you learn about the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation?

I learned about CCF by internet and colleagues some years ago, and in 2019 I was invited to attend the annual meeting in Salt Lake City for giving a talk about ENS-CCA and our research collaborative activities. Since then, I became strongly connected with CCF and ICRN. It is a great pleasure and honor for me to work and collaborate with them. They are doing an extraordinary work.

Can you tell us why you became a member of the ICRN?

ENS-CCA mainly involves European scientific groups because there are specific research funding grants from the European Commission to promote collaborative research within Europe. However, this collaborative vision is global and involves all the groups interested in cholangiocarcinoma worldwide, and of course the ICRN. We are trying to promote and boost more and more collaborations between ENS-CCA and ICRN, but also globally with Asia, and now with Latin America and Africa (through the recently created Ibero-Latin American Research Network on Cholangiocarcinoma (ILARN-CCA) and African Hepatopancreatico-biliary Cancer Consortium (AHPBCC). Moreover, in collaboration with the AMMF and CCF, it has been created the Global Cholangiocarcinoma Alliance with the mission to increase the global awareness on this cancer.