The Swiss Science Prize Latsis awarded for groundbreaking cancer research

Nicola Aceto has discovered that metastases do not spread the way we thought. He receives the Swiss Science Prize Latsis in recognition of his work.

Metastases of tumours often spell danger and are responsible for over per cent of cancer deaths. Nicola Aceto, professor at ETH Zurich, is striving to improve our understanding of them. For his groundbreaking discoveries, he receives the Swiss Science Prize Latsis worth 100,000 Swiss francs.

Metastasis occurs as a result of circulating tumour cells (CTCs), which leave the original tumour and travel via the bloodstream to other organs, where they form secondary malignant growths. Aceto made several important discoveries while researching these circulating tumour cells: He noticed that clusters of CTCs form metastases particularly frequently; such clusters are particularly prevalent in prostate or breast cancer, for example. He deduced from this that the spread of cancer in the body can be reduced if it is possible to break down CTC clusters with drugs. Aceto has also managed to isolate viable CTCs from practically all types of cancer.

These and other findings have already been applied in clinical trials in patients with metastatic cancer and have contributed to the development of diagnostic and prognostic tools. However, Aceto and his team continue to set ambitious goals for themselves: “The Latsis Prize is a great honour for my research group and myself. Particularly, it is also a great motivation to continue our research efforts in the same very ambitious direction, aimed at developing new therapeutic concepts for targeting and suppressing metastasis in patients.”

Joint award ceremony in Bern

On behalf of the Latsis Foundation, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) chose the winner based on scientific criteria. The award ceremony, a joint event for the Swiss Science Prizes Latsis and Marcel Benoist, will take place at the Rathaus in Bern on 4 November 2021.

The President of the Marcel Benoist Foundation, Guy Parmelin, will present the awards. He had this to say about the event: "I am extremely pleased that we can present the 2021 Swiss science prizes to two outstanding researchers. Thomas Berger and Nicola Aceto are both making great contributions to our society through their work. They are prime examples of Swiss research excellence.”

2021 Laureate: Nicola Aceto

Nicola Aceto (1982) was born in Italy and studied medical and pharmaceutical biotechnology at the University of Eastern Piedmont in Novara. He obtained his PhD from the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Basel and then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School in Boston. On returning to Switzerland he led a research team and held an SNSF-sponsored assistant professorship in oncology at the University of Basel. In 2021 he moved to ETH Zurich where has since led a research team and worked as associate professor of molecular oncology. Nicola Aceto has already received three ERC grants and earned numerous prizes in his career to date, including the Friedrich Miescher Award for Outstanding Achievements in Biochemistry.

About the Latsis Foundation

Each year since 1983, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) has awarded the Swiss Science Prize Latsis (formerly known as the National Latsis Prize) on behalf of the Latsis Foundation, which was founded in 1975. The prize honours young researchers up to the age of 40 at Swiss universities for their outstanding contributions. Laureates are chosen through a selection procedure conducted by the SNSF. The 2021 prize is awarded in biology and medicine.

This press release was issued by the Marcel Benoist Foundation and the Latsis Foundation.