29.01.2021 - IT, Life science, Healthcare

Searching for personalized approaches to treating children with cancer

The Latvian biotech company Smartomica has joined the Latvian Paediatric Cancer Initiative, and will now help search for personalized approaches to treating children who are battling cancer.

Every year up to 50 children hear the diagnosis – cancer. Two years ago the Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre, Children’s Clinical University Hospital, and Mikrotik started a project using the latest genetic diagnostics to help children in Latvia that have been diagnosed with cancer. Now with the help of Smartomica, this genetic information will make it possible to observe and interpret genetic mutations that can lead to a more personalized approach in choosing the treatment method, as well as providing the opportunity to apply for precision medicine.

Smartomica is a biotech company based in Latvia that develops complex diagnostic methods for cancer treatment that are based on artificial intelligence. These methods combine existing knowledge with the individual profile of each patient. The uniqueness of the methodology used by Smartomica lies in the fact that it has developed technologically complex analysis enabling it to work with different types of patient data with the aim of creating personalized clinical scenarios.

“The main focus of Smartomica is on developing technologies to implement cutting edge science in today’s medical practice. What we do at the Paediatric Cancer Initiative is a good example of how the mutual efforts of scientists and medical doctors serve to benefit each individual patient. A personalized approach in children oncology remains a challenging task, thus Smartomica technology provides a unique opportunity for Latvian pediatric patients to receive tailored therapeutic solutions,” says Prof. Igor Koman, Board Member at Smartomica.

One of the initiators of the project where the latest genetic diagnostics are used to help children that have been diagnosed with cancer is CEO of the Mikrotik John Tully.

“Both now and in the future Smartomica’s experience and history in working in bioinformatics and their offer to do free reports based on the information on genetically sequenced tumor samples will help to save children with hard to treat cancers,” he says.

Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for children and adolescents around the world – approximately 300,000 children aged 0 to 14 are diagnosed every year. It is estimated that 60% of childhood cancer survivors have at least one chronic health problem and 30% have severe long-term sequelae as a result of toxic chemotherapy and radiation. Intensified genetic investigations could offer more precise diagnostics and alternative treatment options, possibly sparing children the pain of undergoing redundant medical procedures and thereby reducing not only their suffering but also costs, thus providing savings for the healthcare system and the economy as a whole.

The gold standard for paediatric cancer treatment is therapy protocols elaborated in large multicentre therapy optimization trials. They do not as of yet recommend adding a targeted individual treatment for every paediatric patient, because this has not yet been sufficiently explored, in order to ensure that it will not do any harm. Moreover, according to the evidence-based currently available literature, it is known that most paediatric cancers carry much less druggable target mutations than adult cancers in the primary situation. Therefore, globally the first-line treatment choice for primary cancer in children is mostly still chemotherapy.  However, the mutational burden is higher in relapsed tumors and some primary tumors – in these targeted therapies has already begun to play a role as an adjunct treatment and in the relapsed and refractory situation might even be the only treatment option left.

“These are the patients that currently could profit the most from the investigations BMC and Smartomica can offer – with the exception of them, no druggable target can be found. Independently, these investigations help to characterize the biology of paediatric cancers better, which can help to better predict their behavior and could pioneer the way to a potential individual treatment in the future for every cancer patient. However, neither the world’s leading paediatric oncology centers nor we are there yet,” explains Dr. Santa Kursīte, Head of the Department of Haemato-Oncology.

A strong collaboration between Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre and the Children’s Clinical University Hospital has facilitated the development of a high-quality collection of biological samples, clinical and genomic data of paediatric cancer patients in the Latvian Population’s Genome Database. The biological material collected within the framework of this project is further used for complex, genome-wide molecular analysis at the Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre using the next-generation sequencing approach, which is the state-of-the-art method applied for genomic analysis worldwide.

Although the researchers and doctors have successfully developed the interinstitutional workflow for patient recruitment, sample processing, and complex molecular analysis, the interpretation of the obtained next-generation sequencing data has proved to be the most complex aspect of this and similar projects worldwide, making the contribution of experienced doctors, molecular biologists, and bioinformaticians crucial to transforming the data into meaningful results.  Although the obtained genomic data may not yet be immediately applicable to the process of treatment decision-making in clinics, researchers believe that studies based on the collected data sets will increase our knowledge of the pathogenesis of paediatric tumors, and promote the development of targeted and personalized novel therapeutic strategies that are currently lacking for the majority of patients.

Source: labsoflatvia.com

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