EDIT project: Early Diagnosis and Therapy of Bladder tumors
The new diagnostic approach is so far tested only on animal models, but the future perspectives of the researchers – coordinated by Massimo Alfano, group leader of Extracellular Microenvironment Unit at IRCCS Ospedale San Raffaele - are the application of the platform in clinical trials, to improve the quality of life of patients by reducing the social costs of bladder cancer management.
Bladder cancer’s emergency
Bladder cancer is the 10th most common cancer globally, with more than half million new cases every year, but it is the most expensive cancer to be treated with an expenditure of 9 billion dollars every year.
“The reason for such high expenditure is due to the fact that the current diagnostic imaging techniques do not allow detection and thus surgical removal of bladder tumor smaller than 1 millimetre, and in particular when they are flat. Second, half of the bladder cancers are resistant to the therapy” explains Massimo Alfano.
Because of these diagnostic and therapeutic limitations about 200000 patients every year, and for many years after diagnosis, have tumor relapse and undergo multiple surgical and therapeutic interventions.
The novel technological platform
The new diagnostic approach is based on the use of tumor-targeted gold nanorods (engineered to recognize the bladder cancer cells) and photoacoustic imaging of tumors. “This novel approach allows tumor detection at very early stage, even when they are very small and undetectable by conventional techniques” specifies Alfano.
Because gold is a biocompatible metal and the gold nanorods are instilled into the bladder through the urethra, this approach is safe and well tolerated. The specificity and sensitivity of this in vivo study were recently published in the peer-reviewed leading journal in photoacoustic imaging, Photoacoustics (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36386292/).
The EDIT project
This innovative solution was developed in the framework of a four-year international, multi-institutional and multi-cultural project named EDIT, funded with more than 4 million euros by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 801126 (https://www.edit-h2020.eu/).
The other national and international partners were public bodies as:
- the University of Bologna
- University of Milan
- CNR of Pisa
- Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel),
Small-medium enterprises as:
- Ascend Technologies LTD (UK),
- Lime Technology (Greece),
- OSMDAN (Israel)
and the industrial partner Fujifilm Visualsonics (Netherlands).