UltraPlaCad: the project under Italian leadership for colon cancer early diagnosis
Colorectal cancer diagnosis through a few millimetres of blood sample instead of invasive and often painful colonoscopy. This new perspective was opened by the European project called UltraPlaCad that has recently obtained a considerable European fund under the new Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020. The research will be led by the Intrauniversitary Consortium INBB through the University of Catania.
This is such a potentially revolutionary idea in the medical setting that the European Commission judged it the most interesting and innovative project among the 462 applications for grants submitted in the field of diagnostic devices under Horizon 2020. UltraPlaCad (ULTRAsensitive PLAsmonic devices for early CAncer Diagnosis) is a 42-month project that will involve 13 European universities and research centres which will be coordinated by the Intrauniversitary Consortium INBB (Biostructures and Biosystems National Institute) through the University of Catania.
UltraPlaCad aims to develop a new method of analysis that can verify the presence of some molecules that are associated with colorectal cancer in patient blood, by using the new technologies for ultrasensitive molecular analysis. In this way, it may be possible to diagnose this form of cancer through a simple sample of a few millimetres of blood without using more invasive diagnostic methods such as colonoscopy. This could lead to earlier diagnosis, an improvement of clinical follow-up in the post-surgery phase as well as a considerable reduction of costs for the healthcare system.
“Our project obtained the top possible assessment since it develops a great innovation that will have immediate application and will have a considerable impact on the work of physicians and patient lives”, explained the UltraPlaCad coordinator, Giuseppe Spoto, professor at the Department of Chemical Sciences and head of the Catania Unit of the Intrauniversitary Consortium INBB. According to Giovanni Antonini, professor of Biochemistry at the University of Roma Tre and President of the INBB Consortium, “ULTRAPACAD perfectly meets the criteria and standards of Horizon 2020 – the most important funding programme ever implemented worldwide – that has two main assets: the possibility to industrialize the best research activities and to have a positive impact on community life, firstly by involving the scientific world and then by generating concrete advantages for the citizens”, concluded Antonini.
Besides the Interuniversitary Consortium INBB, the other Italian institutes involved in the project will be University of Ferrara, Regina Elena National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment in Rome and the company Scriba Nanotecnologie. In particular, Regina Elena National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment will host the first trial of the new diagnostic technology that will start within the next three-year period.