HSBC Malta Foun­da­tion sup­ports cancer re­search with €84,000 do­na­tion to UoM

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - LIFESTYLE & CULTURE -

A novel re­search into chemo­ther­apy cur­rently un­der­way at the Univer­sity of Malta has re­ceived a fresh im­pe­tus thanks to a do­na­tion of €84,000 by the HSBC Malta Foun­da­tion via the Re­search, In­no­va­tion & Devel­op­ment Trust (RIDT).

The study is be­ing led by an ac­com­plished sci­en­tist in the field of mi­cro-ri­bonu­cleic acid (miRNA), Dr Dun­can Ay­ers, who is in­ves­ti­gat­ing ways to mit­i­gate the of­ten­dam­ag­ing side ef­fects of chemo­ther­apy on cancer pa­tients by ex­ploit­ing the po­ten­tial of miRNAs. RNA is a vi­tal mol­e­cule for liv­ing be­ings and it can in turn be con­trolled by miRNAs. While at the Univer­sity of Malta, Dr Ay­ers is cred­ited with dis­cov­er­ing a miRNA com­bi­na­tion that af­fects spe­cific cancer chemo-re­sis­tance.

If suc­cess­ful, the col­lab­o­ra­tive re­search holds the po­ten­tial to be­come a pre­cur­sor to phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal tri­als. The project is be­ing or­ches­trated be­tween the Cen­tre for Molec­u­lar Medicine and Biobank­ing of the Univer­sity of Malta and the Func­tional Cancer Ge­nomics and Ap­plied Bioin­for­mat­ics Group at Ghent Univer­sity, Bel­gium.

“Pa­tients un­der­go­ing re­peated cancer chemo­ther­apy cy­cles must of­ten en­dure high doses of chemo­ther­apy drugs, with se­vere side ef­fects. The cancer tu­mour might also de­velop re­sis­tance to such drug ther­apy, ren­der­ing chemo­ther­apy cy­cles less ef­fec­tive and lead­ing to in­creased doses ad­min­is­tered to the cancer pa­tient,” Dr Ay­ers ex­plained. “The project pro­poses an ad­di­tional step to the com­monly em­ployed chemo­ther­apy treat­ment pro­ce­dure through the added use of novel miRNA an­tag­o­nists that would force the cancer cells to be more re­cep­tive to chemo­ther­apy.”

Pre­lim­i­nary re­sults have shown that the new treat­ment method­ol­ogy would ben­e­fit pa­tients, par­tic- ularly those whose can­cers have spread, in two ways; in­creas­ing the ef­fect of chemo­ther­apy dose pos­i­tively, and achiev­ing the same level of treat­ment with re­duced dosage, in turn re­duc­ing side ef­fects in pa­tients with poor tol­er­ance to con­ven­tional chemo­ther­apy drugs.

HSBC Malta CEO An­drew Beane said: “At HSBC, we want to sup­port the pas­sion of lead­ing Maltese sci­en­tists to write the next chap­ter of in­no­va­tion in med­i­cal and aca­demic re­search. Their ded­i­ca­tion in ground-break­ing re­search con­tin­ues to make a sig­nif­i­cant pos­i­tive im­pact in the lives of pa­tients, their fam­i­lies, and all mem­bers of so­ci­ety.”

Thank­ing HSBC Malta Foun­da­tion on be­half of RIDT and the Univer­sity, Rec­tor Prof Al­fred Vella said: “De­spite the fact that we are a com­par­a­tively small univer­sity and we of­ten work in larger net­works and al­liances, the Univer­sity of Malta re­searchers are of­ten at the fore­front of pi­o­neer­ing in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy. This study is an­other ex­am­ple of how our col­lab­o­ra­tion with a world top-100 univer­sity – Univer­sity of Ghent – is ad­vanc­ing the fields of cancer re- search and ther­a­peu­tics.”

Dr Ay­ers’ coun­ter­part at Ghent is Prof. Jo Van­des­om­pele who en­joys a long­stand­ing track record of sci­en­tific achieve­ments and pub­li­ca­tions in miRNA cancer re­search, par­tic­u­larly in the field of neu­rob­las­toma, in­clud­ing a re­cent pub­li­ca­tion in the glob­ally renowned sci­en­tific jour­nal Na­ture.

With this do­na­tion to the Univer­sity of Malta, HSBC Malta Foun­da­tion has ini­ti­ated sup­port for med­i­cal re­search in ad­di­tion to its long­stand­ing in­volve­ment with ed­u­ca­tion, the en­vi­ron­ment and her­itage.

Dr Ay­ers: “If suc­cess­ful, the col­lab­o­ra­tive re­search holds the po­ten­tial to be­come a pre­cur­sor to phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal tri­als.”

The re­search project aims to force the cancer cells to be more re­cep­tive to chemo­ther­apy

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