€15M EU Project Seeks to Improve Personalized Medicine Options

€15M EU Project Seeks to Improve Personalized Medicine Options
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The European Union is providing nearly €15 million ($18.1 million) over five years to improve personalized medicine options for people with drug-resistant high-grade serous ovarian cancer.

The DECIDER project, funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, will apply artificial intelligence methods to develop new diagnostic tools to identify — earlier and more accurately — those patients whose cancer is not responding to treatments. The goal is to find effective drug combinations for these individuals.

“Cancer is one of the leading causes of mortality in the world and as the population ages, the incidence of cancers will only increase. Any new tools that enable better and more targeted treatment of cancers in the future will not only decrease the amount of human suffering, but also the burden on healthcare,” Sampsa Hautaniemi, professor at the University of Helsinki and coordinator of the DECIDER project, said in a university press release.

Most ovarian cancer patients receive both surgery and platinum-based chemotherapy. The chemotherapy, however, tends to lose potency over multiple treatment cycles. Moreover, few effective options exist for patients who grow resistant to platinum-based therapies.

Researchers from 14 institutions in seven European countries want to learn how to predict patient response to new treatments based on their genetic and histopathological (tissue) data. Histopathological refers to tissue examined under a microscope.

Outside enterprises will collaborate in using the project’s results to develop diagnostic kits, a drug-sensitivity test based on the tumor samples, image-based diagnostics of digital samples, and data protection techniques. Here, the aim is to better manage and keep sensitive patient data private.

“We will develop an open source program, which will integrate and visualize all relevant data from a patient,” Hautaniemi said. “Using this information, doctors can more easily identify effective drugs for their patient.”

The DECIDER project includes a legal work package that addresses ethical and legal concerns that may arise from research into personalized medicine. As part of the effort, legal researchers will look for inconsistencies between pharmaceutical regulations and other relevant legislation.

“Our aim is to overcome legal challenges that impede or slow down the provision of new treatments for chemotherapy resistance in high-grade serous ovarian cancer patients,” said Päivi Korpisaari, a professor of law at the University of Helsinki.

“We want to facilitate the commercialization and availability of personalized therapies in an ethically and legally sustainable manner,” Korpisaari said.

All patients participating in DECIDER will be treated in Finland, and Finnish patient organizations, such as the Cancer Society of Finland and the Association of Cancer Patients in Finland, will serve as project advisors.

Forest Ray received his PhD in systems biology from Columbia University, where he developed tools to match drug side effects to other diseases. He has since worked as a journalist and science writer, covering topics from rare diseases to the intersection between environmental science and social justice. He currently lives in Long Beach, California.
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Inês holds a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Lisbon, Portugal, where she specialized in blood vessel biology, blood stem cells, and cancer. Before that, she studied Cell and Molecular Biology at Universidade Nova de Lisboa and worked as a research fellow at Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologias and Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência. Inês currently works as a Managing Science Editor, striving to deliver the latest scientific advances to patient communities in a clear and accurate manner.
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Forest Ray received his PhD in systems biology from Columbia University, where he developed tools to match drug side effects to other diseases. He has since worked as a journalist and science writer, covering topics from rare diseases to the intersection between environmental science and social justice. He currently lives in Long Beach, California.
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