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NUIG leads Sino-EU research into early cancer detection

Scientists at NUI Galway are leading a team of experts from Europe, China and Japan in an important Sino-European research project into early cancer detection.

Maire Geoghegan-Quinn

Their role was highlighted by EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, during her recent visit to China.

The international team is working on a simple blood test for cancer that would do without the need for biopsy. It works by looking at the sugars in cells and blood, which can change when cancer is present.

Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn said: “This project on early non-invasive cancer diagnosis is a typical example of the added value that our collaboration can bring. This is why I want us to create many more opportunities to bring Chinese and European researchers together, working on common problems and with common objectives, in European and Chinese research programmes.”

The project is partly funded by a €3 million grant under the 7th EU Programme for Research and also under the EU’s Specific International Co-operation Action Programme.

The GlycoHIT (Glycomics by High throughput Integrated Technologies) consortium, led by NUI Galway, is aimed at developing reliable and fast diagnostic tests for the early detection of cancer.

All cells and most proteins in blood are glycosylated, that is they are coated with sugars, and these sugars are known to be altered in many diseases, including cancer. High-throughput technologies to analyse these altered sugars, or glycobiomarkers, will allow scientists to diagnose different forms of cancer from a simple blood test without the need for biopsy.

GlycoHIT will also develop sugar-testing technologies to allow this rapid form of diagnosis to be used in a clinical setting. Early diagnosis and treatment can result in increased survival rates and improved quality of life for the patient.

The project brings together researchers from across Europe, China and Japan, with the specific mix of glycomics and biosensor expertise needed for this challenging research.

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