Sidra Medicine plans targeted therapies for childhood cancers
The newly established paediatric cancer biorepository by Sidra Medicine, part of Qatar Foundation, aims to help develop targeted therapies for childhood cancers, Gulf Times has learnt.
“A biorepository is a place where biological samples are collected, processed and stored to support scientific research,” said Dr Wouter Hendrickx, principal investigator of the Paediatric Cancer Omics Lab at Sidra Medicine.
“Through tailoring treatment, we want to strictly limit exposure of a child to such drugs to precisely the amount that is needed, for minimal effect to their quality of life,” said Dr Hendrickx
The establishment of Sidra Medicine’s paediatric cancer biorepository to develop personalised cancer therapies for paediatric patients is a big step towards precision medicine, an emerging healthcare treatment approach that offers personalised care.
It is set to play a major role in the future of healthcare, particularly in complex diseases like cancer. In order to provide such tailored healthcare treatment, research begins at the biorepository.
Dr William Mifsud, attending physician at Sidra Medicine’s Anatomic Pathology Division, said that some studies have shown that particular chemotherapeutic agents can have an impact on cardiac function.
“By tailoring treatment to fit each child, the focus will shift from treating a category that the child fits in, to treating the child’s individual cancer in a very precise way. This approach will also ensure no child is being exposed to more chemotherapy or radiation therapy than is necessary thereby minimising any side effects and toxicity,” explained the physician.
During the course of an individual’s illness, biological samples such as their tissue and blood are collected for diagnosis and treatment. With the consent of the patient, the leftover portions of these biospecimens not used for diagnosis are stored in a biorepository. These samples serve as invaluable sources of material for biomedical research and are crucial in discovering new treatments.
Every sample that goes into the biorepository will be an investment towards better paediatric cancer care. Analysing diseased tumour tissue will allow researchers improved biological understanding of how paediatric cancers operate, including why some cancers respond or don’t respond to a particular drug, or why some tumours grow much faster than others and why some recur.
Dr Hendrickx said that the idea to establish a national paediatric cancer biorepository was born three years ago when Sidra Medicine was recognised as the only centre for paediatric oncology in the country by the National Cancer Programme in Qatar.
As paediatric cancer cases from all over the country were transferred to Sidra Medicine, the general consensus among the medical community was that this was a great opportunity to set up a number of research projects focused specifically on paediatric cancers, with the aim of developing more personalised medicine for children with cancer in Qatar.
“To be able to study a disease, especially a heterogenous disease like cancer, the first thing we need is access to high quality samples of both the diseased tissue as well as the patient’s genetic makeup. This is something that was missing in the country until now, particularly for paediatric cancers. “The lack of a local paediatric cancer biobank was one of the biggest hurdles to doing proper research on childhood cancers; and we are delighted that Sidra Medicine has been able to change that with the establishment of the paediatric cancer biorepository,” described, Dr Hendrickx.
The paediatric cancer biorepository will also offer a chance for an improved understanding of paediatric cancer specifically among Arab populations, and thereby bridging the gap between clinical research and effective cancer care. Existing studies on paediatric cancers either don’t take into account Arab ethnicity or massively underrepresent it.
Genetic makeup differs based on ethnicity and the mutations that can lead to the occurrence of cancer in Arab children can be different to those in other ethnicities.