Fresh findings have emerged from cancer research as scientists at the University of Malta’s Laboratory of Molecular Oncology at the Department of Pathology discovered a cutting-edge technology that allows for further prevention and cancer management.
The findings have been made possible through the FUSION Fund of the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST).
The research group, led by Prof. Godfrey Grech and composed of Prof. Christian Scerri (Clinical lead), Dr Shawn Baldacchino, Jeanesse Scerri, Ala Petersons, Maria Pia Grixti and Martina Spiteri, together with Claudine Grech Spiteri (Industry partner; Applied Biotech) have all contributed to moving forward to less invasive and more sensitive techniques.
In his introductory speech during a dissemination event held at the Esplora Interactive Science Centre yesterday, MCST Executive Chairman Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando commended Prof. Grech, as well as Applied Biotech Ltd for their important contribution to cancer research and innovation.
He added: “Through FUSION, the national funding programme, MCST – which falls under the Parliamentary Secretariat for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation – exercises its mandate to support researchers by ensuring that their talent is recognised, supported and nourished throughout their career. These researchers will help further high quality, innovative research to improve the health of our society.”
The research findings have provided the knowledge for the better classification of tumours into particular sub-groups with unique properties.
The improved techniques enable sensitivity to measure cells and cell capsules shed by solid tumour in blood through a liquid biopsy to follow up standard tissue biopsies, moving towards less invasive tests.
Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs to target specific proteins found in cancer cells and related to cancer growth and is different from traditional chemotherapy, as the active drug selects between the healthy cells and cancerous ones.
The next challenge is to support screening for early detection and hence improve cancer patient care across hospitals worldwide. Prof. Grech said: “The next hurdle is the transition to the clinic for patient benefit, hence the fruitful collaboration with the industrial partner in this project.”
CEO of Applied Biotech Ltd, Claudine Grech Spiteri, said that the innovative method is very versatile and provides the possibility of developing and innovating various products. It is intended that the first oncology product will be launched in September at the European Congress of Pathology. The company has been active in engaging young scientists to expose them to laboratory methods and to provide ideas for dissemination and the communication of science to the public. Young scientists will provide the future workforce for the biotech industry.
During the dissemination event, an animated video of ACT ‘Detecting the undetectable’ was publicly launched. It is available for viewing at https://youtu.be/DyCYJxGbjwU.
Wilfred Kenely, CEO of the Research & Innovation Development Trust (RIDT), referred to the collaboration with the ALIVE Foundation that has been raising funds for cancer research since 2013, from which the RIDT had donated €135,000 to Prof Grech’s team to support cancer research.
The Alive Charity Foundation were also at the dissemination event to talk about their mission just in time before the Maltese cyclists will travel more than 1,200km from Oslo – through Hamburg and finishing in Amsterdam in just a week – from 14 until 21 July.
In order to raise awareness and make the topic more accessible to the public three ‘Science on the Spot’ activities and a short tour through the Esplora Exhibition Spaces were held.
The event ended with an ACT Science Café Discussion where the importance of medical research, the responsibility of a researcher towards innovation, translation to clinic: the role of the industry and healthcare-driven research in oncology: present and future, were debated.
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