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EU funds development of new cancer therapies

Two EU funded research projects developing new therapies for cancer were presented at the conference 'Towards greater coherence in European cancer research' in Brussels on 19 September. 'Cell Therapy' is developing new therapies for brain tumours using encapsulated cell techno...

Two EU funded research projects developing new therapies for cancer were presented at the conference 'Towards greater coherence in European cancer research' in Brussels on 19 September. 'Cell Therapy' is developing new therapies for brain tumours using encapsulated cell technology, and 'Inducible Melanoma' is developing anti-melanoma therapies using a mouse model. In the year 2000, more than 30,500 new cases of brain tumours were diagnosed within the EU. During the same year, approximately 22,300 people died from the disease. Despite aggressive surgery and post-operative radiation and chemotherapy, the average patient will live for only 60 weeks. 'Cell Therapy', involving five partners from Norway, the UK, Switzerland and Germany is developing new therapeutic approaches to brain cancer. The aim of the project is to develop a cell based targeted therapeutic delivery system. This will consist of living cells which will produce substances inhibiting the growth of blood vessels to the tumour. After implantation in the brain, the immobilised cells are able to survive for long periods and continuously produce tumour growth inhibitory substances. An important aspect of this approach is that delivery of substances by the encapsulated cells is local, near the site of the tumour. The 'Inducible Melanoma' project is seeking to address the increasing incidence of melanoma among the European population, the fact that tumours are generally resistant to radio and chemotherapy and the identification of tumour associated antigens. By addressing the questions of why the immune system is inefficient at eliminating antigenic tumours, and how the capacity of the immune system to destroy tumour cells can be boosted, the project consortium hopes to develop anti-melanoma therapies. A mouse model is being developed by the project team. It will mimic sporadic onset and progression. New tools will allow the monitoring of tumour antigen-specific immune responses as the tumour develops, and the effects of vaccination on antigen-specific immune responses and tumour progression will also be monitored. The consortium hopes to prove that non-invasive imaging can be used to monitor the effects of treatment and to make the model available for pre-clinical research. Eventually the project should be extended to other partners to include different types of skin cancers.