The partners have submitted an application for an international research grant titled “Latvian Paediatric Cancer Genome Initiative”. The initiative foresees sequencing and analysing the genomes (DNA) of healthy and cancer-stricken cells in paediatric cancer patients with the aim of analysing this data and using it to improve treatment and make it possible to design targeted therapies for individual patients.
The ultimate aim of the research is to develop the first program for precision medicine for cancer patients in Latvia, like programmes already started in the parts of USA and Europe.
MikroTik, one of Latvia's most successful companies, has supported the RSU Institute of Oncology by donating 100 000 euros for purchase of additional laboratory equipment for another project, "Support for cancer cell research". RSU plans to receive additional funding for cancer genome research also from the potential international grant.
Every year in Latvia, around 50 children are diagnosed with cancers, many of which are aggressive, hard to treat and with a high risk of mortality. Although the survival rates have improved greatly for some cancers, others still take a heavy toll of children's lives. In most cases, the standard treatments are general, non-targeted, and using cytotoxic drugs with side effects that can be serious and lifelong.
RSU rector Professor Aigars Pētersons said: “RSU is pleased to commence this innovative project in Latvia. Support provided by entrepreneurs to research is invaluable and necessary. It will foster more rapid development of research and saving of lives of many children in Latvia.”
By comparing the genetic sequence of a patient’s tumour and normal cells, clinicians can determine which changes are more likely to be cancer-related and which treatments are likely to work. Establishment of the initiative will allow Latvia to follow leading countries in cancer research and catch up with treatments being developed in parts of Europe and the USA.
One of the tasks of the initiative will be the development of a genome database: a collection of genome sequences from children and young people with cancer. Using the database and sophisticated analytical tools, researchers will be able to pinpoint key genes (and other DNA sequences) that are altered in children who go on to develop cancer. In turn, they will gain insights into new prevention and treatment approaches for childhood cancer.
According to the director of RSU Institute of Oncology Professor Edvīns Miklaševičš: “We are entering a new era in healthcare that will be based on genome analysis. Genetic testing of cancer patients could lead to clinical decisions that will improve the outcomes and quality of the life of children with cancer. Clinicians could choose targeted anticancer drugs that will have less side effects compared to traditional chemotherapy or radiation therapy.”
RSU Professor and the head of the Clinic of Paediatric Diseases of Children’s Clinical University Hospital Dace Gardovska believes that it is essential that the implementation of the project is planned in close cooperation with the leading haemato-oncologists and patient families.
“Successful implementation of the project will increase Latvia’s opportunities for receiving support from foreign professionals in treatment of rare diseases and selecting the most appropriate targeted therapies for individual patients,” Professor Gardovska said.
MikroTik Chairman of the Board John Martin Tully commented: "New technology holds the key to saving the lives of childhood cancer victims. MikroTik is committed to bringing the newest lifesaving cures and treatments to help paediatric cancer patients in Latvia.”
MikroTik was founded in 1996 to develop routers and wireless ISP systems.