A promising way of monitoring the efficacy of cancer treatment is to identify the tiny ‘blisters’, vesicles released by tumour cells. Developing new technology to do this is the focal point of the Cancer-ID research programme administered by the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE). “ “We want to develop blood tests that will allow us to identify the therapy-relevant properties of different types of cancer”, says Prof. Dr. Klaus Pantel, director of the Institute of Tumor Biology of the UKE. Together with colleagues from the Netherlands, the Hamburg tumor expert will co-ordinate the scientific EU project “Cancer ID”. The researchers plan to pave the way for blood tests that will allow to define individual cancer therapies of patients by liquid biopsy. This new diagnostic concept was developed in Hamburg and could, in future, offer an alternative to invasive tumor biopsies.
Closing The Gap Between Basic Research And Clinical Practice
Solid tumors such as breast, lung, prostate or colon cancer constantly release cancer cells or parts thereof into the bloodstream. As a “liquid biopsy”, the analysis of the genes, messenger RNA, and proteins of these cells allows experts to quickly gather information on the properties of a tumor. How aggressive is it? Does it react to certain drugs or not? These are the questions that can be answered by using the new blood test. “In this way, it will be possible to better adapt the therapy to the patient and to spare him unnecessary treatments”, says Prof. Pantel.
33 in13: the “CANCER-ID” project
In the CANCER ID project, a total of 33 institutions and companies from 13 countries have formed a research network in the frame of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) of the European Union (EU). The project “CANCER ID” will run for five years. It is funded by the EU with 6.6 million euro. Another 8.2 million euro will be covered by industry partners. At the UKE, the project is currently funded with 1.16 million euro, additional half million euro are to follow during the project phase. The Institute of Tumor Biology is part of the Centre for Experimental Medicine and member of the Cancer Centre University of Hamburg (UCCH). There, Prof. Pantel and his team developed the concept of liquid biopsy, which now forms the basis of the EU project.
Additional Funds By The European Research Council
Prof. Panel and his team also managed to acquire funds from other sources. Following 2011’s ERC grants, the European Research Council (ERC) continued funding of the tumor researcher. In 2011, Prof. Pantel had been granted 2.5 million euro to track and characterise individual tumor cells in blood and bone marrow. With the new funding (“proof of concept”, volume: 150,000 euro), the commercialisation and marketing of the method are now being examined. Throughout Germany, the European Research Council granted only four supports of this kind.
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