Our mission consists in facilitating the access to the most advanced and effective therapies which have been made available by new technologies. We focus on the people who are most in need—suffering from oncological and rare diseases, particularly children, and we aim to increase hope and improve quality of life.
The therapies we work with are proton therapy to treat childhood cancer and gene therapy to treat rare diseases.
Fundación Columbus identifies areas where there is an unmet medical need in rare diseases, and where gene therapy can be guaranteed to be successful.
Given the small number of patients affected by rare diseases, therapies for these diseases are of no commercial interest to the pharmaceutical industry. The Foundation acts when treatments are clinically possible but not commercially viable.
Our goal is that the cure for these diseases is developed and that it reaches all patients in need around the world. Gene therapy is a type of treatment that uses genes to treat or prevent disease. Copies of the “correct” gene are delivered to the patient’s cells. Each copy of the gene is encapsulated in a modified virus (adeno-associated vector) that acts as a transporter. The virus allows access to specific organs or tissues where it can deliver the gene it carries.
- Collaboration with scientific and clinical experts to advance programs in the clinic.
- Alliances with manufacturing companies to reduce production cost and ensure capacity (Viralgen VC)
- The not-for-profit model eliminates commercial expectations of return on investment necessary for the development of these treatments.
Fundación Columbus has access to a global network of experts and collaborators in this matter, ranging from preclinical aspects, to clinical development and regulatory aspects and production. This allows us to collaborate with many research groups and facilitate the development of therapies.
In addition, the Fundación Columbus has already sealed several alliances with other associations with the aim of promoting internal research programs that currently exist for rare diseases and providing therapeutic access to affected people.
Fundación Columbus has already made significant progress in accelerating gene therapy treatment for the rare disease L-amino acid aromatic decarboxylase deficiency (AADC deficiency) or pediatric Parkinson’s disease.
Interesting partnerships have been developed with the American NGO Cure Rare Disease for Duchenne muscular dystrophy disease, the Canadian NGO CureSPG50 for SPG50, and the New York-based biotech company Phoenix Nest to address Sanfilippo type C disease, among others.
We provide families and doctors with various resources to facilitate the process
Coordination with the medical team and the foreign medical center, to prepare and send the necessary documents.
Aid in the administrative process of approving the treatment in the Spanish National Health Service.
Aid in the organization of the trip, so that the stay abroad will not be a source of preoccupation (finding translators, accommodation, transport, etc).
Processing of economic help for families in need of it.
What is Proton Beam Therapy?
Proton beam therapy is an advanced form of external beam radiotherapy, which uses high energy protons to irradiate a tumor. The protons target precisely the cancerous cells, attacking their DNA and so provoking their destruction.
These accelerated, subatomic particles known as protons are able to channel a high level of energy directly to the tumor through a magnetically-guided beam. This allows for radiation to be more precise and focused around the affected area, thus consequently leading to reduced irradiation of healthy tissue.
Proton beam radiotherapy is particularly indicated in delicate clinical cases, where the tumor is found in an area that is hard to access and/or is near important organs and tissues, as is the case in pediatric tumors, where tissues and organs are at critical stages of development, and so especially vulnerable.
Proton beam therapy vs. Conventional radiotherapy
Conventional radiotherapy uses X-rays, which are highly penetrating, electromagnetic waves that deliver high doses of radiation both before and after reaching the tumor, hence considerably affecting healthy surrounding tissue.
Proton beam therapy offers the advantage of a better distribution of radiation dose within the tumor, while the radiation delivered after exiting the tumor is minimal or almost null. A proton’s unique properties enable it to stop at a given point, thus delivering most of its energy at a precise and controllable depth within the tumor—known as “Bragg peak.” This precision prevents damage to healthy surrounding tissue, consequently reducing possible side effects.
The main benefits of proton therapy in the treatment of cancer are:
- Reduced side effects
- Augmented efficacy
- Improved quality of life
What types of tumors can be treated with protons?
Proton therapy is indicated for the treatment of both solid and localized tumors.
It is a therapy particularly appropriate when the tumor’s proximity to vital organs (nervous system, eye tumors, cerebral and neck tumors, etc.) means that conventional radiotherapy presents unacceptable risks for the patient.
It is specially indicated in the treatment of pediatric tumors, since by avoiding the irradiation of healthy organs and tissues, which are still undergoing development, one can prevent the emergence of cognitive deterioration, growth defects, and cardiac damage, as well as the incidence of further tumors induced by the radiation.
Proton program Fundación Columbus
At the moment, there are no centers in Spain delivering therapy with protons or proton beam therapy. It is for this reason that the Columbus Foundation, in a partnership with the Hospital Niño Jesús, has developed a program for children with cerebral tumors so that, when advised by the medical team, these children will be able to receive treatment in a center in Europe.
How can my child receive treatment with proton therapy in a center abroad?
The treatment must be prescribed by a multi-disciplinary medical team, which will decide whether therapy with protons is the most appropriate course of action given the child’s individual circumstances.
Once the suitability of the treatment has been agreed upon, the Spanish National Health System must approve the treatment abroad. In order to do this, all the administrative documentation required must be provided to the relevant authorities.
Once treatment has been accepted and approved in a center abroad, what are the next steps?
Once treatment has been approved, the Columbus Foundation will contact your family to help you carry out the process required for your child to start the proton treatment abroad, all within the time frame set by the medical team.
The Foundation will assist you in all aspects of the trip’s organization, as well as in the search for accommodation for your stay abroad, and in any other capacity in which help is needed.
Likewise, the Foundation will lend economic help in all aspects regarding the trip and the stay in the foreign country, should a family’s circumstances require so.
At which proton therapy center in Europe will my child be treated?
The Columbus Foundation has well-defined channels of communication with various European centers. The choice of the specific center is at the discretion of the medical team at the Spanish hospital, which will decide according to your individual circumstances.