Horizon Discovery and the University of Torino’s department of oncological sciences won a $500,000 Eurostars grant to research a novel class of inherited and somatic noncoding cancer-related SNPs. The project, known as Insight (interrogation of somatic and inherited gene variations for human therapy), could lead to the development of new cell-based models for use in both the genotype-specific targeting of cancer treatments and as a tool to help develop novel therapeutic approaches, Horizon claims.
The work will combine the company’s genome-engineering technology, Genesis™, with the cancer genetics expertise of Alberto Bardelli, Ph.D., at the University of Torino’s Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment (IRCC), which houses the department of oncological sciences. It was Dr. Bardelli’s research that first identified K-RAS and BRAF mutations as predictors of resistance to EGFR-targeted therapies in colorectal cancer.
The collaborators’ goal is to validate the biological role and mechanisms of action of particular SNPs in cancer and develop new SNP-based cell models for use by the research community. Horizon also aims to use the cancer models to profile existing drugs that target these mutations.
“Genomics research over the past 20 years has seen incredible growth in the number of SNPs identified that are believed to increase an individual’s susceptibility to cancer,” Dr. Bardelli notes. “The statistical evidence provided by population studies has not been paralleled by experimental evidence that the identified SNPs play a functional role at the cellular level. Insight is designed to unequivocally establish the causal relationship between cancer-associated SNPs and biological perturbations of key cellular features such as gene transcription, alterations in DNA-protein interactions, and drug response.”
The Eurostars grant program is sponsored by EUREKA and the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development.