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Univ. of Manchester to Head $8M Radiotherapy Side Effects Biomarker Effort

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The University of Manchester's Institute of Cancer Sciences said today that it will lead an international consortium that will use €6 million ($7.9 million) in funding to develop genetic biomarkers to identify patients who are at risk of developing long-term side effects from radiation therapy.

The 13 members involved in the EU-funded project, called REQUITE, plan to develop these markers specifically for patients with breast, prostate, and lung cancer who receive radiation therapy.

Once they identify these markers, they plan to use them to design trials to test whether cancer treatments can be personalized to the patient before they are delivered so that cancer survivors may avoid some of the problematic side effects of radiation, such as bowel or bladder incontinence.

"This study should mean that in the future doctors can look at a patient's biomarkers by taking a blood test and design their treatment accordingly," Susan Davidson, a consultant and honorary senior lecturer at The Christie Foundation NHS Trust, said in a statement. "We will begin recruiting patients to this study when it opens in April 2014."

The five-year project, which launches next month, includes a four-year observational study of cancer patients across Europe, the UK, and in the US. DNA from these patients' blood samples will be extracted and genotyped for genetic variation, and the researchers will then use these data to try to develop algorithms to predict how the patients will respond to radiotherapy. They also plan to use these validated biomarkers and predictive models to design new interventional trial protocols to reduce side effects and improve patient quality-of-life.

The University of Manchester said this funding is the first major grant won by members of the Radiogenomics Consortium, an international collaboration that works together to identify common genetic variations that can affect patients' likelihood of developing side effects to radiotherapy.

Along with the University of Manchester, the project partners include the University of Cambridge; the German Cancer Research Centre; the University of Gent; the University of Leicester; KU Leuven; the University of Montpellier; Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori; Fundaciόn Pública Galega Medicina Xenómica; The Christie NHS Foundation Trust; Source Bioscience; Mount Sinai School of Medicine; and Stichting Maastrict Radiation Oncology Maastro.