The central objective of EpiDiaCan consortium is the identification of novel epigenetic markers in human tumour cells and the development of novel diagnostic tests in the clinic.
To obtain a comprehensive view on the role of individual epigenetic modifiers and their target genes in tumourigenesis, we will focus on studying their effect on cell growth, tumourigenicity using model cell and animal systems as well as primary colon and prostate tumour cells. To this end a multilateral course of action is planned, which involves microarray analysis together with genetic, cell biology and biochemical approaches.
In parallel, a battery of promising markers (including the above mentioned chromatin modifiers at specific loci) will be further developed in a sufficient number of clinical tumour samples and body fluids, towards the direction of developing novel clinical tests for early cancer diagnosis and response to therapies.
The EpiDiaCan Workplan is broken down in activities that partially or totally depend on each other and is further dissected to workpackages, which correspond to the major subdivisions of the program. The structure of the project reflects the complementarity of the approaches and of the expertise of the participants. The integration of the single contributions will be fundamental to successfully execute the tasks.
Contribution to wider societal objectives
The benefits on the society of a network focusing on novel early tumour markers are evident, since cancer is a major cause of death in Europe. EpiDiaCan contains groups of scientists from different disciplines like Molecular Biology, Epigenetics, Cell Biology, Tumour Biology, Biochemistry and Clinical Studies.
The synergy between the labs is evident at structuring the experimental tasks. Already bilateral interactions exist and this network will enhance already successful co-operation by adding a value at the European level. Dissemination of the technologies developed at the individual national level will provide patients all over Europe to have access to new developments concerning cancer treatment, thus enhancing the benefit for the "European Citizen".
Contribution to policy objectives of Health
Cancer is the second major cause of mortality in Europe. A new era in human biology has been opened by the sequencing of the human genome offering opportunities to improve human health and to stimulate industrial activity. EpiDiaCan project represents a basic and applied research programme aimed to exploit the potential of genomic approaches to decipher mechanisms underlying genetic vs epigenetic mechanisms in oncogenesis. The goals of this proposed project are in accordance with the relevant objectives of the Health priority laid down in the 7th EU framework programme because our research is focused on major fundamental biological processes concerning cell proliferation which can be exploited for novel tumour markers. Part of the work will therefore have direct implications on colorectal, prostate and breast cancer in humans and hopefully will lead to the identification of novel epigenetic markers for cancer diagnosis and cancer therapeutics. Further characterization of our already existing cell and mouse models for cancer on different genetic backgrounds will allow us to use these mice in preclinical trials and speed up the evaluation of novel markers in the clinic. Furthermore, results obtained in EpiDiaCan project will contribute to our understanding of genetic and epigenetic events during tumour formation in general and help to strengthen their link. New knowledge about tumour formation will eventually be translated to an application stage, to the design of new diagnostic tests to detect cancer at an early stage and thus improve medicine in Europe and life quality.
The complexity and the quantity of the proposed work in EpiDiaCan demands the collaboration of many laboratories possessing different expertise. Some of the participants (1, 4, 5) and (6 ,7) have already initiated bilateral collaborations studying related topics. Although they have built up fruitful collaborations, these activities are fragmented and address specific aspects only. A European Program would combine and expand these individual activities to a more comprehensive collaboration. Besides the combination of different expertise, the multidisciplinary nature of the program requires the integration of resources available at the individual EpiDiaCan laboratories.