ERA-NET project on translational research on cancer

NExT – Earlier diagnosis of endocrine pancreatic tumors

Press Release /

Since autumn 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT coordinates the BMBF-funded ERA-NET project "NExT" that aims to detect endocrine pancreatic tumors at an earlier stage and to improve therapies in cooperation with international research partners. The consortium is setting up a tissue bank, developing patient-specific cell-models and identifying corresponding biomarkers with the aid of a microfluidic chip system.

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNETs) are rare tumors of the pancreas and the mortality rate for this cancer is very high. The disease has a heterogeneous appearance and the molecular understanding of tumor biology is limited. Although various chemotherapeutic approaches exist, molecular markers are still lacking to detect the disease at an early stage and to choose individual therapeutic approaches. In order to improve the individual response to certain therapies, new marker signatures must be identified. To evaluate these using in vitro and in vivo models of PNETs, extensive molecular data sets must be collected from patient cohorts.

"NExT" project: Identification of specific biomarkers for the early diagnosis of pancreatic tumors

Since September 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT coordinates the ERA-NET project "NExT" to establish an algorithm for the early detection and follow-up care of patients with neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas. The focus is on the development of new methods and technologies for the characterization of endocrine pancreatic tumors. "NExT" aims to solve clinically relevant problems in the field of translational research with regard to PNETs.

For this purpose, a tissue bank of genetically characterized PNETs will be established and patient-specific three-dimensional in vitro models (xenografts and organoids) will be developed. With their help, the researchers identify urgently needed pancreatic tumor-specific biomarkers that are responsible for the development of rare tumors.

Circulating tumor cells are considered attractive biomarkers for liquid biopsy as they represent an early step in blood-borne metastasis. The partners of the joint project are developing an innovative microfluidic system for positioning and automatic characterization of circulating tumor cells for the improved minimally-invasive early detection of this type of tumor and for the follow-up care of patients.

Rapid, specific and sensitive detection and characterization of PNETs could increase the chance of surgical intervention and thus improve the survival rate of affected patients.

Interdisciplinary cooperation of medical scientists, cell biologists and engineers

The Fraunhofer IBMT is contributing to this project its long-term expertise in building chip-based systems for positioning, enriching, cultivating and characterizing cells under fluidic conditions. Within the project, the Fraunhofer IBMT is developing a microfluidic chip system with a special microhole structure for cell sorting and characterization.

The molecular, genomic and transcriptomic characterization of PNET tissue and serum samples as well as PNET tumor organoids will provide specific related biomarkers for the development of the chip-based microfluidic system.

Project Funding: BMBF, No. 01KT1910

Funding period: 09/2019-08/2022

Project partners:
Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT, Sulzbach; Germany
Fundación para la Investigación Biomédica del Hospital Universitario Ramón y Cajal (FIBIOHRC), Madrid, Spain
Biomedical Research Center of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Cancer Research Institute, Bratislava, Slovakia
Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre, Human Genetics and Molecular Medicine, Riga, Latvia
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, 1st Department of Propaedeutic Surgery, Athen, Greece
Bioquochem Company, Llanera, Spain