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Cancer Research in Malta

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Christian Scerri

on 19 October 2017

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Transcript of Cancer Research in Malta

What comes to mind when someone mentions Malta?
Does cancer research in an Island Community leave an impact?
What Type of Research can be Associated with Cancer ?
Cancer Biology -
The study of the differences between normal cells and cancer cells
Cancer Genomics -
Investigating the genetic foundations of cancer - improves understanding of cancer biology, possible new methods of diagnosing and treating the disease.
Diagnosis and screening -
accurate screening and diagnostic information is critical for making decisions at all stages of cancer care.
Treatment -
developing more effective and less toxic treatments is fundamental to improving outcomes for patients with cancer.
Cancer & Public Health -
Studying cancer and its burden on a population-wide scale can provide important information that influences national practices, policies, and programs.
Clinical Trials -
essential for moving new methods of preventing, diagnosing, and treating cancer.
Is all DNA replicated?
Is the environment favourable?
Are all chromosomes attached to the spindle?
Continue dividing or stop and differentiate?

DNA damage repaired?
Cell Cycle
But we also have our own self defenses
One of these is the enzyme Superoxide dismutase (SOD)
The group led by Therese Hunter is studying the mechanism of the Manganese SOD as a cancer suppressor molecule
By producing directed mutants - studying the mechanisms by which this enzyme acts in reducing these oxidative radicals
Two problems when studying cancer cells:
obtaining viable cells
growing the cells

In comes a substitute that has a lot in common with the human cell and be easily grown:
One way of killing cancer cells is by giving them a command to die - called Apoptosis

This group have clearly shown that aspirin pushes the cell into apoptosis through the modification of the free-radicals

A third group led by Pierre Schembri Wismayer is looking at cancer from a different angle

Looking at in-vitro effect of various products on cancer cells

Immunotherapy
Cell differentiation
What happens in tissue rejection?
Why is cancer not recognised as foreign or damaged?
Apart from killer cells, the body has regulator cells (T regs) - these reduce the activity of killer cells

Tumours attract T regs within its microenvironment - escape immune reaction.


Tumour cell-free DNA reduces T reg cells
Research that is targeting treatment
Cancer cells act like stem cells, staying undifferentiated and continuously dividing
Research targeting therapy
Fourth group under Godfrey Grech and Christian Scerri - mostly concentrating on Breast Cancer but by March to start also on Colon Cancer

Five lines of research:
Cancer Biology
Cancer Genomics
Diagnoses
Treatment
Public Health
e.g. FTY720
Research goal - Targeted treatment
Trick to identify patient subgroup
Two other aspects of this group's research:

1. Investigating environmental and lifestyle risk factors -
600 individuals (200 breast cancer cases/400 controls) participated in a interview based study. At present data is being analysed.

2. Analysis of the predominant genetic defects within familial cases of breast cancer.
Assisting in setting up a surveillance programme for those at the highest risk of breast cancer
Research targets - Public Health - results shall assist in patient surveillance policy, planning and prevention of environmental and lifestyle exposure.
Action for Breast
Cancer Foundation
Thanks for our sponsors and funding partners
What is the strategy to combat Cancer?
Prevent
Detect
Treat
3 words
Traditional
Chemotherapy
Large doses
Collateral Damage
Targeted
Therapy
Directed to particular tumour
More "ground" intelligence required
Treatment
How can these genes be damaged?
How can one combat the formation of free radicals?
A second group under the leadership of Rena Balzan are studying the effects of an old drug (Aspirin) on yeast cells

Low dose aspirin has been known to reduce risk of certain cancers, esp gastrointestinal ones
Can we identify different cancer subtypes by the way they look?
Successfully identified the three most common subtypes in breast cancer utilising a simple test

Identified a subtype within the triple negative group

Work in progress to identify active versus inactive PP2A

Identifying the different expression pattern identifies the different subtypes
Different cancer subtypes express different proteins
Dental research - Ectopic teeth
Neurophysiology
Cerebro-Vascular Accident (Stroke)
Nicotine Addiction
Epilepsy
Neurodegenerative disorders
Functional genetics (drosophila) in motor neuron disease
Ion channelopathies
Biotech Research - research on endemic flora and fauna
Phycology - study of photosynthetic organisms
Thalassaemia and Haemoglobinopathies
Cancer Research
Departmental Research Portfolio
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