Biomarkers research in Qatar to help early cancer detection

DOHA: Promising the “earliest detection” of diseases, the Qatar Biomedical Research Institute (QBRI) under Qatar Foundation is going ahead with a biomarker research programme. With cancer being a major issue here, the research aims to identify the molecular changes that lead to cancers, and introduce biomarkers as a diagnostic tool.

“Early screening means early detection, better treatment and definitely a better quality of life,” said Dr Abdel Haoudi, Vice President, Research Division, Qatar Foundation.

“The biomarker programme looks at how best a disease can be detected at a very early stage. If this can be achieved, we have a much better chance to guarantee cure with minimal invasiveness. The programme is one of the most advanced ones and the starting point will be its application in cancer.”

Biomarker research in Qatar will be based on genetic structure and DNA (genomics), and protein structure and functions (proteomics). Generally, a biomarker is anything that can be used as an indicator of a particular disease state or some other biological state of an organism.

“Changes in genes and proteins are indicators of various diseases, and hence we call them biomarkers. Once different biomarkers are identified and correlated to different diseases, we can check for biomarkers and say if a person is at an early stage of a particular disease.”

While cancer screening today is mostly based on physical symptoms, biomarkers can help take screening programmes to a much more advanced level. Since changes in genes and proteins happen much before the symptoms become visible, the research promises to lead to better treatment.

“This is a new development in medical science and we are still at a very early stage of a complex field. So our research will focus on one disease at a time rather than cover all the diseases at once. Qatar will concentrate on biomarker discovery and validation in cancer, to start with,” he said.

Earlier, speaking to The Peninsula, a senior official at the Weill Cornell Medical College- Qatar had said a project on biomarkers of breast cancer and at-risk pregnancies would begin in six months.

Like stem cell research, the biomarker study is a part of the science and research capacity building programmes meant to address the major needs of Qatar, ranging from establishing scientific research programmes to creating a critical mass of scientists needed to ensure successful implementation and sustainability of Qatar Foundation’s ambitious research agenda.

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