Brussels, 15 Jun 2004
A new Integrated Project, CANCERDEGRADOME, funded under the 'Life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health' thematic priority of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) will study new and innovative ways of diagnosing and treating cancer.
'Proteases are a diverse and important group of enzymes representing 1.7 per cent of the human genome. The job of these enzymes is to cut or degrade other proteins, and hence the proteases, their substrates and inhibitors are collectively called the degradome. Mutations of degradome genes have been linked with a number of human diseases, and their aberrant expression is associated with cancer', explains the CANCERDEGRADOME consortium in a statement.
This Integrated Project, which is to receive 10.4 million euro from the European Commission, will focus principally on four of the most prolific types of cancer -breast, prostate, colorectal and skin - in order to understand how the degradome contributes to each of these cancers.
CANCERDEGRADOME will involve 41 scientists from 13 countries, who, over four years, will use their knowledge of the degradome to create new drugs and develop novel specific interventions based on detailed knowledge of the roles of target proteases in cancer.
'This Integrated Project increases the number of top European laboratories cooperating towards a single scientific goal, thus drastically augmenting the impact that European research will have in the fight against cancer,' states the European Cancer Proteases Consortium (EUPC).
The fight against cancer is a priority issue for the EU, especially as the increasingly ageing population will lead to an estimated extra 250,000 cancer diagnoses per year in Europe by 2020.
One of the major problems in the treatment of cancer is that patients with the same type of cancer and the same disease stage have markedly different responses to therapy. The difficulty is to identify from the patient population those who are most at risk from their disease and to deliver treatment to these patients, while sparing those who are not at risk from the need to undergo costly, unpleasant and unnecessary interventions.
The EUPC will therefore aim to improve cancer diagnostics, so that patients will be identified when the disease is in its earliest, most treatable stage. At the same time, the effectiveness of therapies will be maximised, whereas the impact of side effects will be greatly reduced. This will be achieved through highly individualised therapies.
Finally, the project will aim at improving tumour imaging, so that cancers can be localised, characterised and treated at the earliest possible stages of the disease.
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