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EU Project Studies Innovative Ways Of Diagnosing and Treating Cancer


A project to study new and innovative ways of diagnosing and treating cancer is underway thanks to a grant of 10.4 million euros from the ’Life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health’ thematic area of the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).

CANCERDEGRADOME brings together the expertise of 41 scientists from 13 countries who, looking mainly on four of the most prolific types of cancer (breast, prostate, colorectal and skin), will focus on the complement of genes that encode enzymes that are known as proteases.

“Proteases are a diverse and important group of enzymes whose job is to cut or degrade other proteins”, says project co-ordinator Dylan Edwards, from the University of East Anglia. “Proteases function at different stages of tumour development and progression. In this project we plan to investigate the biology of proteases and then design specific inhibitors to block them.”

“One of the major problems we face in treating cancer is that patients who have the same type of cancer and are at the same disease stage respond very differently to therapy. So ideally we should look to identify those who are most at risk from their disease and provide them with treatment while, at the same time, sparing those who are not at risk from undergoing costly, unpleasant and unnecessary interventions.”

During the four-year project the CANCERDEGRADOME partners 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. The project will also aim to improve tumour imaging, so that cancers can be localised, characterised and treated at the earliest possible stages of the disease.

“The fight against cancer is a priority issue for the EU”, says Claire Horton, FP6UK’s National Contact Point for ’Life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health. “Especially as it is estimated that our increasingly ageing population will lead to an extra 250,000 cancer diagnoses every year in Europe by 2020. That is why the European Cancer Proteases Consortium aims to improve the diagnosis of cancer so that patients can be identified when the disease is in its earliest, most treatable stage.

“The current Framework Programme (FP6) runs until 2006 and organisations wanting free information on how to access some of the 19 billion euros available should log on to or call central telephone support on 0870 600 6080.”

Dave Sanders | alfa
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