Research Headlines – Advanced molecular technique boosts cancer research

After cardiovascular diseases, cancer is the second leading cause of death and morbidity in European countries and is one of the most significant health challenges worldwide. An EU-funded project is developing new tools for diagnosing cancer and for understanding the role of proteins in this and other major diseases.

© Alexander Raths #49399692, 2019 source:

Proteins are the basis of cellular and physiological functioning in living organisms. The physical and chemical properties of proteins determine how they act and work within cells. Therefore, the analysis of protein abnormalities is particularly important for the study of heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes and cancer.

The objective of the EU-funded BIOCAPTURE project is twofold. First, project researchers are developing novel, robust tests for protein-based biomarkers associated with cancer. Second, they are researching and producing innovative tools that can reveal elusive cancer-related modifications in proteins.

To advance its aims, the BIOCAPTURE team is exploiting molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs). These are special materials in which researchers create uniquely shaped microscopic cavities which have an affinity for a particular molecule.

Protein sequence-specific MIPs are being used in combination with leading-edge technologies such as mass spectrometry and fluorescence-based detection. This enables BIOCAPTURE project scientists to test for the presence and characteristics of key cancer-related proteins and protein-based structures.

The results of the BIOCAPTURE project will have a major impact on healthcare, leading to new methods for earlier, more reliable diagnosis of diseases, including cancer. The ability to more rapidly identify biomarkers will be very significant in discovering new drugs. Finally, the ability to detect and assess protein modifications will be invaluable in numerous biochemical and medical applications.

The project represents a very exciting interdisciplinary training programme. Eleven early-stage researchers working on specific tasks within five work packages are following a rich training programme, accruing a well-balanced spectrum of scientific, business and entrepreneurial skills.

Together, the activities of the BIOCAPTURE consortium are set to improve cancer treatment standards in Europe, while providing significant economic benefits within the European biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors.

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