Skip to main content
< Back to news
Image: Jonathan Bailey, NHGRI.

IRB Barcelona to participate in the international DECIDER project, aimed at improving diagnostics and treatment of ovarian cancer

The Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), based in PCB, is one of the 14 research centers and hospitals from the European Union that will participate, over the next 5 years, in the international DECIDER project, which starts with funding from € 15 million from the European Commission to improve personalized therapies for ovarian cancer.

In Europe, over 40 000 women die of ovarian cancer every year. In addition to surgery, most patients are treated with platinum-based chemotherapy. Unfortunately, the effect of the chemotherapy often decreases with treatment cycles, and few effective treatments are currently available for patients who develop resistance to platinum-based drugs.

The project kicks off in February and will develop diagnostic tools for earlier and more reliable identification of patients not responding to current treatments. Based on the data collected from the tumours, the project also aims to discover effective combination treatments.

“What makes this project unique, besides the multidisciplinary and extraordinary quality of the partners, is that we will be working with several samples from the same tumours, taken at different time points. We will be studying the evolution of the tumour, and our main goal is to be able to anticipate genetic changes in the cancer that lead to treatment resistance,” says Fran Supek, head of the Genome Data Science lab at IRB Barcelona.

Fran Supek (Photo: IRB Barcelona).

Artificial intelligence to integrate and visualise patient information for doctors

A team of researchers at the Genome Data Science lab will be working on the development of computational models that predict evolution of every particular tumor and that will aim to make effective and personalised treatment recommendations based on the genetic profile. The group will combine experimental approaches based on gene editing, and computational approaches based on machine learning to understand drug and radiation resistance mechanisms.

“Tumors often have defective mechanisms to repair their DNA, which speeds up their evolution but potentially also results in drug vulnerabilites or drug resistance. If we understand the mechanisms underlying resistance, by sequencing the tumour we would be able to predict whether it would easily be able to gain resistance to a specific drug in the future. This would lead to understanding which other treatments would be more effective on that particular tumour, to slow down its evolution and ultimately improve health outcomes,” Supek explains.

An important part of the project will be the collaboration with small-and-medium enterprises (SME) in developing, producing and registering diagnostic kits, producing a drug-sensitivity test based on the tumour samples, developing image-based diagnostics of digital samples, and developing data pseudonymisation and anonymisation techniques necessary for the management of sensitive patient data for privacy protection. Patient organisations have an important advisory role in the project.

In addition to the medical research, the project also includes a legal work package that addresses the ethical and legal aspects of the project. Furthermore, the legal researchers will also study whether there are inconsistencies between the pharmaceutical regulatory system and other relevant legislation.

» For further information: IRB Barcelona website [+]