Martinez and Hellevik Research Unit

Research Focus Field:

Cancer, Radiotherapy, immunotherapy, tumor microenvironment

Our research aims at improving current treatment strategies in cancer by combining Radiotherapy and Immunotherapy. The group has a central interest in elucidating biological effects exerted by ionizing radiation on elements of the tumor microenvironment, and aims at exploiting this new knowledge to achieve a therapeutic synergy with immunotherapy in preclinical tumor models first and in cancer patients in a longer run. To meet the current demands in this field, the active projects in the group aim at generating a better understanding on the local and systemic immune responses elicited by radiotherapy. In this context, the immunomodulatory roles of tumor stromal elements such as fibroblasts occupy a central place in our research strategy.


Inigo Zubiavrre Martinez

Professor in Cell Biology
Department of Clinical Medicine

Turid Hellevik

Researcher, Medical Physicist
University Hospital of North Norway (UNN)

Rodrigo Berzaghi

Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Clinical Medicine

Md Ashraful Islam

Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Clinical Medicine

Kristin Lode

Research Fellow (PhD Candidate)
Department of Clinical Medicine


WP 1 of the 180 °N -Tromsø Project: Immune-PET and lung cancer

Development of novel Immuno-PET tracers for in vivo imaging of tumor-associated immunity

Despite the demonstrated effectiveness of immunoregulatory agents such as immune checkpoint blockers (ICB) on refractory cancers, these therapies work satisfactorily only in a reduced subset of patients. Further, ICB treatments are not exempt of risks and are associated to very high costs. Reliable response biomarkers are needed to identify responders and non-responders, and conventional imaging modalities and/or wet biomarkers have not proved adequate. Recently, the immune contexture of the tumor microenvironment was introduced as a new concept that classifies tumors by quantifying immune cell densities and other immune markers, and defines the chances for responding to immunotherapy. For the case of PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors, patients are currently stratified by determining tumor expression of the target molecules from a biopsy collected prior treatment. However, the procedure is invasive, introduces risks of tumor cells dissemination and is associated with low sensitivity and specificity due to intratumoral heterogeneity. Positron emission tomography (PET) is a powerful, quantitative, non-invasive imaging technique that permits longitudinal analyses of biological processes in vivo by administration of a radiolabeled probe. In this project we aim at exploiting PET technology for doing spatial and temporal tracking of intratumoral T lymphocytes and other relevant immune-markers to stratify patients amenable for immunotherapy, and to monitor responses to therapeutic interventions.

This project is funded by Tromsø Research Foundation and Trond Mohn Foundation, and led by Prof. Inigo Zubiavrre Martinez and Researcher Turid Hellevik.

Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts Role in Lung Tumor Responses to Radiotherapy and Immunotherapy

In this project we aim at unveiling responses of tumor stromal fibroblasts to ionizing radiation, with special emphasize on tumor-growth regulatory effects and immune/inflammatory responses. This project is funded by Helse Nord and Aakre Erna Og Olav Stiftelse, and led by Prof. Inigo Zubiavrre Martinez and Researcher Turid Hellevik.

Radiotherapy to Enhance Response Rates to Immunotherapies

Evidences has revealed that local radiotherapy (RT), applied to patients in specific forms, can turn tumors into in situ vaccines. However, systematic studies at the pre-clinical phase on optimal timing and delivery of RT that could synergize with immunotherapies are still inadequate. In this project we propose to study systematically, in pre-clinical mouse models, the local and systemic immuno-responses elicited by RT applied in different schemes, in order to delineate optimal RT regimens for combinatory immunotherapeutic interventions. This project aims to achieve personalized immunization and enhance responses to immunotherapies by means of radiotherapy.

This project is funded by Helse Nord and Norwegian Cancer Society, and led by Prof. Inigo Zubiavrre Martinez and Researcher Turid Hellevik.

Collaboration Partners

Local partners

Tom Dønnem
Tor Stuge
Ugo Moens
Baldur Sveinbjørnsson
Abhik Ghosh
Bård Smedsrød




National partners

Randi Syljuåsen
Heidi Lyng
Emmet McCormack
Bengt Erik Haug

Radium Hospitalet
Radium Hospitalet



International partners

Lorenzo Galluzzi
Arne Østman
Carina Strell
Juan Carlos R. Manzaneque
Juan Antonio Marchal
Anthony Chalmers

Weill Cornel Med School (USA)
Karolinska Inst. (Sweden)
Uppsala Univ. (Sweden)
Genyo (Spain)
Univ. Granada
Beatson Inst Cancer (Scotland)






Inigo Zubiavrre Martinez, Prof., PhD
Turid Hellevik, PhD
Visit us
Room L7.207, MH Øst
Faculty of Medicine
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
Hansine Hansens veg 74, Tromsø