This project is financed by the European Union and will allow to improve the precision in the assessment of risk and early detection of gallbladder cancer.
“Gallbladder cancer is the second cause of death in Chilean women and the regions Los Ríos and La Araucanía are the ones with the highest prevalence in Chile,” said the physician Héctor Losada, who is a researcher who leads a project at the Universidad de La Frontera (UFRO) that will create a consortium for European-Latin American research for the eradication of this disease.
This mega project is financed by the Program Horizon 2020 of the European Union and is led by Heidelberg University in Germany, together with the Universidad de La Frontera and counts with the participation of 12 research centers in Europe and Latin America, with the objective of improving the precision of risk assessment and early detection of this kind of cancer, identifying and considering geographic, environmental, lifestyle, ethnic, gender and molecular differences adequately.
Dr. Justo Bermejo, the leader of the Group for Genetic Statistics of the Faculty of Medicine of Heidelberg University, affirmed that gallbladder cancer is not easy to detect. “The proof is that each year, 1,100 Chilean women and 500 men die from this disease. At present, a measure of prevention is to remove the gallbladder, but the objective of this project is to refine this preventive strategy, to identify biomarkers in the blood, which, at the same time, allow to identify individuals at high risk of developing gallbladder cancer,” he explains.
The specialist pointed out that it has been shown that genetic ancestry is an important factor in order to detect gallbladder cancer potential. “The Chilean People are a mix of Europeans, Mapuche people and Aymara people. We already found out that Mapuche descendants have an increased risk of developing this disease.”
The UFRO researcher Héctor Losada added: “The project functionally identifies, validates and characterizes new cancer biomarkers, developing a multifactorial risk score that integrates and establishes epidemical and molecular risk elements that have recently been identified. This way, the existing epidemiologic data can be exploited.”
The generated information will allow to identify individuals at high risk, and can guide them through processes of monitoring and individual decision-making regarding the possible preventive gallbladder removal in regions of low and high cancer prevalence. This will also be the first step for the implementation of future clinical trials.
INTERNATIONALIZATION OF UFRO RESEARCH
The Director of Innovation at UFRO, Franklin Valdebenito Godoy, pointed out that the internationalization of research capacities is key nowadays, especially in fields of high impact within the global population. “We are creating links with research centers that are international benchmarkers, what has been a priority axis in innovation at UFRO. Through the Program “Connecting”, we were able to become a leader regarding the number of important projects awarded, for example by Horizon 2020, thanks to the capabilities and skills of our team and researchers.”
It is worth mentioning that the Universidad de La Frontera has extensive experience in research on gallbladder cancer, which can mainly be found in patients aged 35-40.
Written by: Francisca Collao Kehr
UFRO Office of Innovation