Project title: Development of MicroRNA-based Liquid Biopsies for Small-bowel NETs

Iacovos Michael, PhD Sunnybrook Research Institute, University of Toronto

Iacovos Michael, PhD
  • Status: Active
  • Year(s): 2023
  • Grant Type: Investigator
  • Research Type: Translational
  • Primary Tumor Site: Gastrointestinal

What question will you try to answer through your research?

Currently, we lack reliable, non-invasive methods for early detection and monitoring of disease progression for neuroendocrine tumors arising from the small bowel, e.g., SB-NETs. In this project, our team (Groups of Drs Iacovos Michael, Hon Leong, and Neil Renwick) will develop a blood test, referred to as a liquid biopsy, for SB-NETs. We aim to develop sensitive and specific liquid biopsies to diagnose SB-NETs.

What will you do as part of this research project?

This research will take advantage of the access to clinical samples at the Susan Leslie Clinic of Neuroendocrine Tumors at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and clinical samples from two international clinical trials, STOPNET and NET-RETREAT, in collaboration with Dr. Chris Callaghan and the Canadian Cancer Trials Group. Specifically, we will use blood donated from patients to quantify the amount of genetic material – miRNAs contained in exosomes – released in the blood circulation by the cancer cells. For this purpose, we will use novel approaches developed by our team members to isolate exosomes from blood and quantify miRNAs.

Why is this important? / How might your research improve the diagnosis and/or treatment of NETs?

Early detection of SB-NETs could lead to better treatment strategies before the cancer advances and spreads to other organs. In addition, our approach will allow clinicians to monitor the disease progression during and between treatment cycles, which can lead to better outcomes. The development of miRNA-based liquid biopsies will allow for rapid, accurate, and cost-effective diagnosis and monitoring of SB-NETs.

What is your next step?

In future studies, we will work with the clinical team of Dr. Simron Singh at the Susan Leslie Clinic at Sunnybrook to further validate our approach’s sensitivity and specificity and compare it with existing imaging techniques. Our long-term goal is to incorporate liquid biopsies in future clinical trials and routinely use them in clinical practice.





Additional Details

  • City: Toronto
  • State: Ontario
  • Country: Canada
  • Grant Duration: 2 years
  • Grant Partner: NANETS


NETRF funds laboratory research to understand the development of neuroendocrine tumors and translational research to explore new concepts in treatment. Research grant descriptions and research updates from NETRF are not intended to serve as medical advice. It can take years for research discoveries to be fully validated and approved for patient care. Always consult your health care providers about your treatment options.

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