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Tuesday, 04 February 2020

ICN2 for the World Cancer Day

On the occasion of the World Cancer Day, occurring on February 4 and dedicated to global awareness about cancer, we would like to highlight various research lines oriented at improving tumour diagnosis and treatment in which the ICN2 is involved.

Since 2000, every February 4 is a day dedicated to global awareness on cancer. This initiative, led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), is aimed at sharing knowledge, fostering education and catalysing personal, collective and government action against cancer and in favour of research to fight this mortal disease.

The ICN2 is participating in this initiative by highlighting the cutting-edge research carried out at our centre, in collaboration with other leading international institutes and Universities, to develop novel diagnostic and therapeutic technologies. In particular, five ICN2 research groups are involved at different levels in these studies: the Nanobiosensors and Bioanalytical Applications Group, led by Prof. Laura Lechuga; the Inorganic Nanoparticles Group, led by ICREA Prof. Victor Puntes; the Electron Microscopy Unit, led by Dr Belén Ballesteros; the Nanobioelectronics and Biosensors Group, led by ICREA Prof. Arben Merkoçi; and the Nanostructured Functional Materials Group, led by Dr Daniel Ruiz.

Among the researches carried out by the ICN2 Nanobiosensors and Bioanalytical Applications Group, led by Prof. Laura Lechuga, is the development of an optical biosensor methodology based on poly-purine reverse-Hoogsteen (PPRH) probes able to capture specific double-stranded DNA fragments. This technique has proven to give a consistent diagnosis of the primary tumour even in cases where its site is unknown. A paper on this relevant topic by Dr César S. Huertas and Prof. Laura Lechuga, co-authored by Prof. Manel Esteller, a global authority in the study of epigenetics of cancer, was published in Biosensors and Bioelectronics. Read more here.

Another work by this group published in Scientific Reports describes the application of a label-free bimodal waveguide biosensor to detect another potential biomarker for the early diagnosis of cancer, which is the expression ratio of mRNA Fas isoforms. In fact, the aberrant splicing of Fas gene isoforms (Fas567 and Fas57) is implicated in tumour growth and the overexpression of Fas57 is known to contribute to cancer aggressiveness. Read more here.

As described in an article published in Analytica Chimica Acta, Prof. Lechuga’s group also developed a less invasive and more specific screening tool for colorectal cancer. Nanoplasmonic biosensors can be used for rapid and label-free detection of colorectal cancer autoantibodies directly in blood serum or plasma. Read more here.

Other interesting works dedicated to cancer diagnosis developed by the Nanobiosensors and Bioanalytical Applications Group can be found here and here.

A project called PromeCean, launched in May 2019 and led by Dr Neus Gómez Bastus and Group Leader ICREA Prof. Victor Puntes, of the ICN2 Inorganic Nanoparticles Group, together with researchers of the Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics Service of the Hospital Cliníc, aims to apply nanoparticles to the treatment of liver cancer. In particular, this research focuses on developing and testing a pharmaceutical product based on cerium oxide nanoparticles to treat hepatocellular carcinoma.  Read more here.

From Puntes’ group also originated a spin-off, called Nanotargeting, dedicated to nanotechnology research for developing novel diagnostic tests, delivery systems and therapies.

The ICN2 Electron Microscopy Unit, led by Dr Belén Ballesteros, was involved in a project developed by an international team of researchers aiming at preparing stable and more effective carbon nanocapsules for radiation therapy to treat cancer.   This study, which has been recently published on ACS Nano, holds the promise of enhancing radiotherapy to fight cancer more effectively. Read more here.

In a previous research, carried out by the CNRS and the ICN2 Electron Microscopy Unit, the synthesis of a novel promising carbon nanotube carrier for the targeted delivery of radioactivity, through a combination of endohedral and exohedral functionalization, had been devised. Read more here.

The Nanobioelectronics and Biosensors Group, led by ICREA Prof. Arben Merkoçi, developed in collaboration with researchers of the Hospital Sant Joan de Déu of Barcelona a simple, rapid, low cost, specific and long lasting method to detect Parathyroid Hormone-like Hormone (PTHLH), which has been reported to be involved in the initiation, survival and progression of primary tumours, as well as in the generation and development of metastases. The developed device is similar to a pregnancy test (Lateral-flow immunoassays) involving gold nanoparticles, as described in a paper on published online in Nanomedicine:NBM. Read more here.

Finally, the Nanostructured Functional Materials, led by Dr Daniel Ruiz, worked on developing a novel nanoparticle platform based on nanoscale coordination polymer for chemotherapy drug delivery with reduced side effects.

Other projects in this field are ongoing and new research ideas are continuously proposed and explored. News from the nanoworld are expected, so stay tuned.