Colorectal cancer: a new system for non-invasive early diagnosis
The Italian-led UltraPlaCad project, funded with 6 million euro by the European Commission under Horizon 2020, has been completed after 42 months of research. The project led to the development of a new device for the performance of the so-called liquid biopsy for the diagnosis of colorectal cancer, which allows early diagnosis through a simple blood sample.
The device was tested at the Regina Elena National Cancer Institute in Rome, where a database of blood samples from 54 patients has been created, which has already provided a large amount of useful information about possible plans for exploitation and application of the new technology on a large scale.
The new system enables the simultaneous detection of DNA alterations and the presence of specific proteins in the blood, which represent a potential warning sign for colorectal cancer. A major advantage is that the system can selectively recognize tumour-associated molecules, such as DNA and proteins, using nanotechnology, with no need for amplification of samples.
UltraPlaCad – an acronym for Ultrasensitive Plasmonic Devices for Early Cancer Diagnosis – involved 13 European partners from Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. The research was coordinated by the INBB Interuniversity Consortium through the University of Catania.
According to the researchers, the new technology – although developed specifically for the early detection of colorectal cancer – could also be used for the screening of other types of cancer diseases, with considerable benefits in terms of diagnosis and costs for the national health systems.