The Center for Applied Molecular Technologies (CAMT) works in collaboration with the King Albert II Institute of the Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc. It focuses on the genetic heritage of cancer cells. Cancer is indeed linked to alterations in some of the genes present in the cells of our body.
The techniques of molecular biology or molecular genetics make it possible to study and identify specific alterations in these genes or in the molecules (proteins, RNA) that are produced by these genes.
Molecular genetics and biology contribute to a better understanding of the intimate mechanisms of our cells' functioning.
The CAMT conducts translational research: the aim is to translate discoveries made in the laboratory from basic research into practical applications that are useful for patient care.
Several examples illustrate the added value of translational research in terms of diagnosis and treatment.
The work of the CAMT has led to the clinical implementation of a test for the detection of prostate cancer cells in urine. This test is a major aid in the diagnostic approach to prostate cancer and in the identification of indolent or aggressive modes of presentation. The CAMT is the only Belgian university center to perform this test and has become a reference in this field at the European level.
In colon cancer, new high-performance drugs, tyrosine kinase inhibitors, are emerging, selectively targeting and blocking cellular proteins (Ki-ras) whose deregulated activity is directly involved in the development of cancer. However, these drugs are only active on the non-mutated forms of these deregulated proteins. The innovative techniques developed by the CAMT allow to rapidly verify the presence or absence of mutation of these proteins in patients' tumor samples, and thus to quickly select patients who will benefit from the effects of these drugs.
Thanks to the CAMT, researchers' discoveries have an immediate impact on the quality of care provided to patients.
Several cutting-edge tools are pushing forward the search for genetic abnormalities involved in the development of cancers. For example, high- and low-density molecular microarray techniques allow the simultaneous study of several hundred to several thousand molecules that make up the genetic heritage. They are based on the use of probes of different configurations capable of recognizing their own equivalent target within the genetic heritage and therefore of determining whether or not these targets present the genetic anomaly sought.
The CAMT strives to improve and simplify these sometimes complex techniques so that they can be used to optimize the clinical diagnostic and therapeutic approach to cancer.
Molecular microarrays are a major advance in the search for genetic abnormalities involved in the development of many cancers.
Finally, molecular biology contributes to a more efficient use of anti-cancer drugs. Indeed, the way drugs are metabolized in the body is also influenced by genes. Some drugs can have a toxic effect or, on the contrary, be ineffective in genetically predisposed patients.
Based on molecular biology techniques, pharmacogenetics makes it possible to quickly and efficiently identify subjects at risk and thus prevent the occurrence of adverse effects, or to identify patients who will be good and bad responders. These new applications therefore allow selecting drugs on an individual basis according to their efficacy and toxicity (in the latter case, by adapting the doses or choosing a less toxic alternative).
Born from the joint advances of genetics and molecular biology, pharmacogenetics leads to a more efficient and safer use of cancer treatments.
The evolution of technologies makes it essential to open up medicine to other disciplines such as bioinformatics and biostatistics, biochemistry, or engineering. The CAMT works in close collaboration with the King Albert II Institute and within a consortium of these multidisciplinary partnerships. This new approach reflects an evolution that has become unavoidable given the complexity of diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to cancer and the concern to control this disease ever more effectively.