Russians and Americans develop early-stage cancer diagnostics in Siberia
5 Feb '15
Researchers at the Russia-US Anti-Cancer Center in Barnaul, in Southwest Siberia, a joint project launched more than a year ago on the premises of Altay State University, say it will take them three years to complete the testing of a technology which is believed to enable physicians to rapidly diagnose cancers at very early stages, using literally just one drop of a patient’s blood. If the effort proves successful, medical institutions in Altay, a vast Siberian region bordering on Central Asia’s Kazakhstan, may expect to receive the new diagnostics methodology by 2018.
The partners are said to have developed a technology called “Immunosignature,” which is based on the results of profound studies that help harness the powers of human antibodies. Antibodies are protein-based substances which the immune system generates in response to the ‘intrusion’ of adversary genes, thus protecting our bodies against infections or pathologies. The new Siberian project is built around the idea that each cancer patient has a very specific set of antibodies. That prompts the scientists to believe that if they learn to recognize such antibodies, this will help them identify and nip malignant tumors in the bud, as immune response typically comes earlier than symptoms of a disease.
The Center researchers use a special bioscanner to find out how peptides (short protein chains consisting of 12-to-15 amino acids) interact with antibodies that are contained in the blood of both healthy people and cancer patients. To determine the difference in their behavior in the two categories is to find the key to solving the problem, the scientists think.
The developers are keen to bring about a revolution
The Russia-US Anti-Cancer Center was set up in June 2013 and has since then been a venue for collaborative work pursued by scientists from Arizona State University and their Russian colleagues from Altay State University, Altay State Medical University, the “Nadezhda” (“Hope”) oncology center, and the Siberian Research Institute of Chemical Biology and Fundamental Medicine.
The Altay State University website last fall quoted Rector Sergei Zemlyukov as saying that the Center employees have received extensive training in Arizona, and Prof. Stephen Johnston, PhD, the co-director of Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute and the chief American partner in the joint effort, visited the team in Barnaul in September 2014.
According to Mr. Johnston, the researchers are on the verge of a “revolution” in biotechnology and early-stage cancer diagnostics and prevention. The team is hoping to one day bring this technology to Altay clinics, the U.S. scientist said.
The first step in this direction will be looking for ground-breaking ways of diagnosing lung and breast cancers, Prof. Johnston added. Andrei Shapoval, the director of the Russia-US Anti-Cancer Center, confirmed the plan:
“We are currently in the process of collecting clinical samples [of blood] from lung and breast cancer patients. We’re already testing them; and mathematical analysis we’re involved in is most time-consuming. Our laboratory has won a grant for our research, and we expect to be receiving $125,000 each year over a three-year period,” the Russian scientist said.
The cooling of US-Russia political relations has brought no deterioration in scientific collaboration so far, the international team said. However, Stephen Johnston didn’t completely rule out the emergence of problems at a later stage.