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Lab visit: The Institut Curie, Paris – clinical research department

By 18th June 2019 July 8th, 2019 No Comments

Clinical research is important for improving patient care and treating cancer. A clinical trial is the final step before a medication or technique is launched or a new therapy is implemented.

Basic research takes place in laboratories while clinical research is conducted with patients.

Clinical research is a major focus at the Institut Curie, which has its own clinical research department since 2011 as part of the Curie Hospital.

More than 10% of Institut Curie patients are included in a clinical trial. To compare, the average is 5% in the major American cancer control centres. Priority is given to the early development of new treatments, regardless of the type of cancer. To this end, innovative imaging approaches and new methodologies for analysing clinical data are employed.

The Institut Curie also carries out early clinical trials. At the Centre de Ressources Biologiques (CRB), technician, Michèle Galut introduced us to the Curie Institute’s tumour library, which stores pathological tissue samples in special freezers that are kept at between -80°C to -30°C. The goal of the centre is twofold: to offer treatments adapted to patients; and to conduct fundamental research. The centre recently acquired new automatons that extract DNA, RNA and proteins from the diseased tissues.

At the Genetics laboratory, Julien Masliah, a biologist specializing in oncogenetics and more specifically in the genetics of paediatric tumours, explained how he and his colleagues look for for variants in the tumour samples they receive. He also provided us with information on how he interprets molecular alterations in these samples.

Julien Masliah has experience in the molecular biology of rhabdoid tumours, medulloblastoma and embryonic brain tumours and is involved in several clinical trials and translational research projects aimed at improving the treatment of these forms of cancer. He also works on molecular RCP, which aims at targeting therapies to patients suffering from metastatic cancer, in relapse or from rare forms of a cancer.

Biologists at Curie work closely with bioinformaticians

Virginie Bernard, who specializes in next-generation sequencing (NGS) analysis and heads the ICGex Bioinformatics team, coordinates clinical bioinformatics at the Institute. She and her colleagues use data produced by sequencers to analyse the origin of patient pathologies. The research projects she has been involved in include the analysis of genomic data with bioinformatical and biostatistical methods. She has designed and implemented the methodologies in these projects.

Sylvian Baulande also works on the NGS platform where he is head of the sequencing unit. He and his team now routinely make use of the Institute’s new generation Novaseq 6000 sequencer that allows a human genome to be sequenced in just 24 hours, compared to two weeks previously. The challenge, he explained, is to be able to analyse the mass of genomic data now being produced in this field.