EC seventh framework programme

Identification and characterization of novel human telomere-related biomarkers that aid cancer management by improving patient diagnosis, treatment selection, response monitoring and drug development Professor Rob Newbold, Director of Brunel’s Institute of Cancer Genetics & Pharmacogenomics (BICGP), has been awarded €3 million by the European Commission to co-ordinate a new multinational cancer research project under the title acronym ‘TeloMarker’. The project is part of the EC’s Framework 7 (FP7) and builds on the success of research projects also co-ordinated by Professor Newbold over a period of 15 years of continuous funding under Frameworks 3 to 6, amounting to around €13 million overall.

Human cancer cell chromosomes (red) showing telomeres (yellow).


Photomicrograph courtesy of Dr Joachim
Lingner, Swiss Cancer Institute, one of the
partners in the new TeloMarker project.

The TeloMarker project work, which began in February 2008 and runs for 3 years, is being undertaken by Prof. Newbold’s research team at Brunel and 7 other academic partner groups in centres of excellence across Europe. It will develop the work done in Prof. Newbold’s ongoing (FP6) 13-partner project, ‘MolCancerMed’, which runs until October 2008, to focus on diagnostic biomarkers for cancer based on the telomere (the structure at the end of our chromosomes that regulates the lifespan of cells and is dysfunctional in most cancers). The eight research groups will look at proteins that make up the telomere structure using modern genomics and proteomics techniques to identify those that have diagnostic value. An example of this is preliminary work done at Brunel (in collaboration with Kefah Mokbel, consultant breast surgeon at St. George’s Hospital Medical School and Professor Associate within the BICGP) and recently published in the journal Breast Cancer Research & Treatment, which shows that reduction in expression of two of these proteins, TANK2 and POT1, may predict patient outcome in breast cancer.

New knowledge about abnormal telomere structure in different common human cancers, eg breast and prostate, and certain leukaemias, will enable the group to develop completely novel diagnostic procedures. In the prostate, for example, it is not currently possible to predict which cancers are sufficiently aggressive to warrant radical surgery. New biomarkers such as those to be developed within TeloMarker will be extremely valuable in directing therapeutic options. Professor Newbold is also drawing up a second multinational FP7 application to exploit the cancer drug development work of MolCancerMed (to be known as ‘TeloDrug’), working on drugs to target telomere-associated proteins. The aim is for the TeloMarker and TeloDrug projects to interact closely and produce both new diagnostic procedures and more effective treatments for the advanced common cancers (below).


Prof Newbold said: “We have been very fortunate to receive EU funding for cancer research, in a highly competitive environment, since 1991. This is the most exciting time of all, since our fundamental research findings over the years can now be developed for the benefit of patients.”

  • Brunel University, UK (Co-ordinator)
  • University of Glasgow, UK
  • Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL),
  • Switzerland University of Freiburg, Germany
  • Umea University, Sweden
  • CNIO, Spain
  • Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon, France
  • University of Ulm, Germany

Page last updated: Friday 15 July 2011