PRESS RELEASE BY THE OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND THE MINISTRY FOR HEALTH AND PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIAT FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES, DIGITAL ECONOMY AND INNOVATION

Through innovative use of technology, a research project named Accurate Cancer Screening Tests (ACT), identified ways to understand tumour behaviour leading to less invasive techniques on patients diagnosed with cancer.

The results of the ACT project were presented by Professor Godfrey Grech to Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation Silvio Schembri, in the presence of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health Chris Fearne and MSCT Chairman Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando.

ACT project, which benefited from Euros 190,000 under the FUSION programme administered by the MSCT, identified a set of new markers that help in prediction of tumour spread in other sites that are different from the organ of origin.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health Chris Fearne said that cancer is an illness which although it is classified within the same category group by clinicians, it differs from one person to another and therefore, each cancer patient requires a more personalised approach to treatment. He hailed that such research as presented today, ensures that patients are treated in an individual matter according to their illness.

At the end of his speech Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne thanked all the team forming part of this research and said that together with the Cancer Trust Foundation, the Health Ministry will be setting up and institution with the aim to gain more financial aid towards cancer research.

Parliamentary Secretary Silvio Schembri said that research and innovation go together to find a solution and in the case of the health sector their role combined is essential as we see in the huge advancement medical sector has went through over the past decades.

Hence, it is crucial to keep on investing in FUSION programme to encourage Maltese researchers to sustain their research in order to identify solutions. I am satisfied on how research is developing. In fact, through this fund around Euros 8 million were invested in research which is leaving an impact on our economy, said Parliamentary Secretary Schembri.

He thanked the researchers and scientists involved in this project, particularly the young ones who invested their time in this project. Being a scientist isn’t just a job, but a mission that is done with passion. Hence we are committed to sustain their work and efforts in their best interest and that of the well-being of society.

Executive Chairman of the Malta Council for Science and Technology Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando publicly commended Profs Godfrey Grech, a Maltese researcher who led a consortium together with Applied Biotech Limited, for their important contribution to cancer screening. This dedicated consortium has designed a diagnostic kit for the early detection of breast and colorectal cancer. The World Health Organisation estimates that between 30-50% of cancer cases are preventable, so such developments are, indeed, notable, said Executive Chairman Pullicino Orlando.

During the presentation Profs Grech, the leader of the project, explained that the use of technology optimized in the laboratory was crucial to have a closer look at the tumours’ behaviour and detect the solid tumours in blood samples to allow for surveillance of patients during therapy.

The main objectives of ACT were to enhance accuracy and sensitivity of technology, to study tumour-derived exosomes in colorectal cancers and to commercialise precision medicine tests.

He explained that the ACT project successfully adapted technology to detect tumour derived exosomes in blood through innovative method, it successfully selected markers to detect colorectal tumours in blood by means of innovative precision test whilst a prototype for breast cancer precision medicine test was developed for validation and commercialisation.

Professor Grech added that the ACT project provide a platform to move the findings to the clinic in aim to move forward to less invasive and more sensitive techniques. Grech explained that validation of results was done in the breast cancer and now it is being analysed in colorectal cancers.

Source: Government of Malta