Friday July 24th 2020 has been definitely a day to remember for the Maltese cancer research’s field. Nearly 1.3 million-grant were offered by the Emanuele Cancer Research Foundation Malta, in supporting University of Malta academics with their two cutting-edge cancer projects.
Her Excellency Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, President Emeritus of Malta and Chair of the Foundation opened the press conference held at University of Malta: “I would like to welcome you to this important moment in the history of cancer research in Malta, whereby the possibilities to enhance this important activity at the University of Malta, through Maltese Researchers and their International Collaborators, will increase, as of today, by another nearly 1.3 million euros.“
One of the projects, led by Prof. Josianne Vassallo and Dr. David Saliba, focuses on mapping the immune landscape to assess immunotherapy strategies to treat pituitary neuroendocrine tumours. The pituitary is often referred to as the body’s master gland since it releases hormones in the bloodstream that regulate important functions such as metabolism, growth and reproduction. Pituitary tumours are common and can occur in up to 20% of people in Malta, with 18 to 20 patients undergoing complex surgery each year.
The other project, coordinated by Prof. Godfrey Grech, will utilise innovative methods to classify colorectal cancer patients into groups of clinical relevance and to optimise sensitive and precise tests to predict early metastatic disease. It is expected to provide a better understanding of the different subtypes of colorectal cancer, explore new insights to explain the mechanisms involved in the progression of the disease, and study the efficacy of specific therapeutics on cellular models that originate from the different types of cancers identified in the study.
The ECRFM is made up of the Italian Foundation Fondazione Terzo Pilastro Internazionale, who has donated a total value of 2.5 million, the Malta Trust Foundation and the University of Malta.
Prof. Emmanuele F.M. Emanuele, Chair of Fondazione Terzo Pilastro Internazionale and ECRFM’s vice President, said: “I am very happy to announce the start of these important research projects, which are being financed through a massive donation, unmatched in Malta to date. These two projects, led by a team who excel in this field, represent a significant step for the ECRFM in its goal to defeat this terrible disease. They will benefit not just Malta and the Mediterranean area, but lead to significant strides in the prevention and therapeutic fields all over the world“.
“Prof. Emmanuele Emanuele, is one of the greatest Italian Philanthropist of all times and has dedicated, and is still dedicating his energies and financial resources to Italian Cancer Research and philanthropy – highlighted Her Excellency Marie Louise Coleiro Preca – He is also a believer of cultural and transcultural development.”
The ECRFM’s Call, published last winter was very welcomed at the University, as the Foundation has received 10 extremely worthy applications to choose from.
In selecting the two winning teams, the ECRFM set up a reviewing International Board, made of experts in the field from some Research Institute with which the Foundation has signed a MOU with:
The Rector Alfred J. Vella said the University hoped the research groups succeeded in collaborating together to establish a core group with the necessary critical mass to be able to take part not only in other calls by the Foundation, but also European and International calls. “It was a great pleasure to see such a considerable number of applications for the Foundation’s first call. We augur these teams will produce excellent scientific results.”
“In the near future – added Her Excellency – we will be announcing another call for cancer research grants so that the rest of the funds are allocated too. This time round, although all applications were eligible, I must wistfully say that the nearly 1.3 m euros were taken up by only two projects. We would have loved to have had all the necessary funds to ensure that all projects would be taken on board, however, being a very positive and altruistic person, I look forward to the next call for project submissions.”