Gulf Medical University and Thumbay Research Institute of Precision Medicine marked Research Day, sharing insights from leading minds on the region’s first pilot research on the personalised precision medicine programme using the Zebrafish Avatars to treat cancer- with the first phase focusing on the care of patients suffering from colorectal and breast cancer. The study’s findings aim to help researchers and oncology healthcare providers to design more tailored and effective treatments based on genetic screening, data on tumor progression and subsequently assessing the need and efficacy of chemotherapy versus other advanced surgical alternatives.
In this way, the research further intends to reduce the trial-and-error response in oncology medicine combined with the preservation of organ function and, improve the overall quality of life.
Dr Rita Fior, PhD, Group Leader Champalimaud Center for the Unknown, elaborates: “The research has been conducted by developing Zebrafish xenografts with a very clear goal of personalized medicine. We live in a world with such amazing technology that helps us to go to the moon, fly planes, zoom over the world, advanced technologies in biology, sequencing of whole genomes, etc. However, once a patient is diagnosed with cancer, they are most likely to be treated with chemo or radiotherapy- although many new amazing targeted therapies are being developed and great advances have been made.
"By directly challenging the cells and measuring the response to direct perturbation, we have found good predictive analysis that can aid the entire process of diagnostics, therapy, and tailor it to the needs of the specific individual.”
An avatar is an animal that has been incubated with a person’s cancer cells so that doctors can test drug effectiveness on the animal tumor first. With several avatars, doctors can test several treatments. But obtaining a tumor assay from a mouse avatar could take months. And people fighting cancer don’t have months. In recent times, the Zebrafish has successfully created human cancer avatars where the tumors are ready to be assayed in just four days.
Speaking about the research, Professor Hossam Hamdy, chancellor, Gulf Medical University, says, “As the leading health professions’ education institution in the UAE, Gulf Medical University looks forward to playing a central role in the advancement of oncology diseases research landscape, incorporating the rich multi-factorial data to tailor treatment and significantly reduce the risks associated with chemotherapy. We are confident that our work will contribute to the UAE’s efforts in spearheading the growth and development of the healthcare sector.”
On similar lines, Prof. Salem Chouaib, Director of the Thumbay Research Institute for Precision Medicine, states, “In every area of cancer, treatments have largely functioned on a one-size-fits-all basis because we didn’t have tools to do any better. Going forward, the advancements in precision medicine will help in determining whether patients are likely to benefit from a particular therapy, longer survival and fewer toxic effects of chemotherapy.”