A project is being undertaken within the Faculty for Medicine and Surgery at the University of Malta, financially supported by the program FUSION, and administered by the Malta Council for Science and Technology, with the ultimate goal of optimising methodologies for the early identification of cancer that can spread from one body part to another.
This project is being led by Prof. Christian Scerri as the Principal Investigator, with Prof. Godfrey Grech as Co-Investigator and is being done in collaboration with Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre, Mater Dei Hospital.
Kicked off in April 2020, IMPRINT focuses on the metastatic disease of the breast, colon and lungs, particularly on types of cancer that aren't radiologically visible.
Its research outcomes have the potential to predict the early spread of tumours, and significantly improve the quality of life of cancer patients while reducing treatment costs.
By analysing how tumour cells circulating within the blood system can be identified and characterised, new avenues for liquid biopsy can be opened and this could in itself, identify early metastatic cancer before it is identified through the traditional radiological techniques in use today., and target the cancer with specific drugs more effectively.
Minister for Research, Innovation and the Co-ordination of Post-COVID-19 Strategy, Hon. Owen Bonnici, visited the laboratories used for this research on Thursday 27 May 2021, and expressed his satisfaction that research of such value is being undertaken by Maltese academics.
"This research project has the potential to make a huge difference in the way cancer is treated and can drastically improve the quality of life of those affected by this disease, in Malta and beyond", said Minister Bonnici.
Prof. Scerri explained that by means of this project, so far researchers have been successful in isolating targeted, intact cells in blood samples and staining them. Innovative molecular profiling technologies using bead-based tests that read multiple transcripts (products of genes) in one run were optimized to measure the characteristics of isolated cells.
The project could start thanks to €200,000 in funds from the FUSION programme within MCST, and now employs a Research Support Officer on full-time basis, thereby also providing an employment opportunity to scientists with a PhD in Molecular Biology.