The IGTP is a partner in an international project to improve personalized treatments for childhood cancer using artificial intelligence tools

- Projects, Research

This year the Childhood Liver Oncology Group (c-LOG) led by Carolina Armengol was one of 21 prestigious International partners from 11 countries joining in the Individualized Paediatric Cure (iPC) Project.  The project has 15 million euros funding for four years and is led by IBM in Switzerland and Technikon in Austria.

Cancer in children is rare, but when it does occur treatment options are usually limited and not always efficient.  Children surviving cancers are often left with long-term serious health consequences as a result of the aggressive treatments they have been given.  One of the reasons for the lack of treatments is that cancer cells undergo many random changes, meaning that each cancer has its own molecular signature and is essentially unique. The goal of the iPC project is to be able to treat childhood cancers by identifying their molecular signature and providing a tailored combination of drugs in the shortest and most efficient treatment possible to avoid over-aggressive treatments and long-term side-effects.

"To tackle this problem and be more efficient in the treatment of this rare disease, researchers around the world need to work in a coordinated way and share our findings," explains Carolina Armengol, "this project allows to to us study the molecular data generated by my team in recent years in depth; and compare them with other pediatric malignancies. Being able to put our work on childhood liver cancer into the larger framework of childhood cancers in general, will make our research much more efficient."  The project team will focus on identifying effective personalized medicine for paediatric cancers and will address a multitude of challenges. To do this, there will be a comprehensive computational effort to combine the joint knowledge-base; machine-learning techniques, and mechanistic models will be used to predict optimal standard and experimental therapies for each child.

The goal of the iPC project is to collect, standardize and harmonize existing clinical knowledge and molecular data and, with the help of artificial intelligence, create treatment models for each patient. Armed with these treatment models, scientists will then test them on virtual patients to evaluate treatment efficacy and toxicity, thus improving both patient survival and their quality of life.  "Our task will be to provide molecular data on Hepatoblastoma, the main liver cancer in childhood; generate experimental models to test new biological-based therapies and study their feasibility for application in real patients," Carolina Armengol, leader of the IGTP c-LOG group, tells us.  "Obviously our research on childhood liver cancer, which is a minority disease, will benefit tremendously from having access to such an international bio computation consortium."

Although the more that is learnt about cancer reveals that it is a complex range of diseases all requiring different treatments. European projects of this size and level of organization can bring the most expert researchers in each field and use the latest technology to provide solutions, which will be passed on to improve patient care and quality of life. In summary, the iPC will address the critical need for personalized medicine for children with cancer, contribute to the digitalization of clinical workflows, and enable the Digital Single Market of the EU data infrastructure.

The iPC project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 826121.