UAE researchers develop personalised cancer treatment using Zebrafish avatar

First phase of study to focus on care of patients suffering from colorectal and breast cancer


A Staff Reporter

Published: Thu 16 Mar 2023, 6:53 PM

Experts at Gulf Medical University and Thumbay Research Institute of Precision Medicine conducted a research to develop personalised precision medicine programmes using the Zebrafish avatars to treat cancer.

The study’s findings aim to help researchers and oncology healthcare providers design more tailored and effective treatments.

An avatar is an animal incubated with a person’s cancer cells so doctors can first test drug effects on the animal tumour.

With several avatars, doctors can test different treatments. But obtaining a tumour assay from a mouse avatar could take months, and some cancer patients don’t have months. Recently, the Zebrafish has successfully created human cancer avatars where the tumours are ready to be assayed in just four days.

The research further intends to reduce the trial-and-error response in oncology medicine combined with preserving organ function and improving the overall quality of life.

The first phase of the research will focus on the care of patients suffering from colorectal and breast cancer.

Dr Rita Fior, PhD, group leader, Champalimaud Center for the Unknown, said: “The research has been conducted by developing Zebrafish xenografts with a clear goal of personalised medicine. We live in a world with such amazing technology that helps us to go to the moon, fly planes, zoom over the world, advanced technologies in biology, sequencing of whole genomes, etc. However, once a patient is diagnosed with cancer, they are most likely to be treated with chemo or radiotherapy – although many new amazing targeted therapies are being developed and great advances have been made”

“By directly challenging the cells and measuring the response to direct perturbation, we have found good predictive analysis that can aid the entire process of diagnostics and therapy and tailor it to the needs of the specific individual,” added Dr Fior.

Professor Hossam Hamdy, chancellor of Gulf Medical University, said, “We look forward to playing a central role in the advancement of the oncology diseases research landscape, incorporating the rich multi-factorial data to tailor treatment and significantly reduce the risks associated with chemotherapy. We are confident that our work will contribute to UAE’s efforts in spearheading the growth and development of the healthcare sector."

Prof. Salem Chouaib, director of the Thumbay Research Institute for Precision Medicine, said: “In every area of cancer, treatments have largely functioned on a one-size-fits-all basis because we didn’t have tools to do any better. Going forward, the advancements in precision medicine will help determine whether patients will likely benefit from a particular therapy, longer survival, and fewer toxic effects of chemotherapy.”


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