ImaGenX is a cross-border network of users, health providers, administrators, and researchers from Sicily and Malta tasked to promote Breast Cancer surveillance. By integrating interdisciplinary expertise in epidemiology and molecular genetics and through client empowerment it aims to strengthen the structured care and surveillance of women at risk from breast cancer. Risk assessment, stratification and allocation of an appropriate surveillance programmes will be strictly evidence-based.

Dr Christian Saliba

Sophisticated risk evaluation undertaken by user-friendly computer-based e-assessments and algorithms, and community specialist counselling will complement existing Breast Screening.  ImaGenX will create an infrastructure to scrutinise putative environmental and genetic factors involved in malignancies in the central Mediterranean.  Health initiatives such as preventive educational campaigns, medical or biochemical interventions, and bespoke IT screening will be precisely targeted.

Communities will take greater responsibility for their health.  ImaGenX seeks to innovate by introducing state-of-the-art technologies and rationalise traditional resources from regional bodies.  It will consolidate existing scientific potential from two prime Mediterranean regions into Research Institutes of Excellence.   Acting synergistically as strategic platforms they will transform their Life Sciences and Information Technology resources into world class industries engaged in cancer risk-reduction.

In Malta and Sicily breast cancer affects around 1 in 10 females, with a large proportion between the ages of 20 and 50.  Those with an inherited familial tendency tend to present at this younger age range. This younger age group would not be scrutinised or detected by existing breast cancer surveillance programmes (BCSP).

Well established surveillance criteria for this age group or their communities are not available. Such criteria require evidence based on the acquisition of familial, environmental and lifestyle risks, as well as focussing on the specific genetic makeup of the two communities.  In studies on large and diverse populations the heterogeneity of risk factors can confound precise risk identification and hamper the formulation of effective surveillance programmes.
Two of the regions have identical populations (Malta 417K, Siracusa 404K) while the third is marginally larger (Palermo 658); but differ in  breast cancer rates (SR 64.5, MT 96.7 and PA 100.8 per 100K pop) and population density (SR 192.5, MT 1322 and PA 4,140 per sqKm).  However they share a common ancestry, and are ideal to compare and help identify putative environmental, lifestyle and genetic risks of Breast Cancer.

The screening programmes of the three regions have vast experience in the setting up of Breast surveillance programmes and ideally placed to determine the surveillance methodologies within the younger target age groups and their communities. Trapani (PUPT) and Malta (UOM) have been collaborating since 2004 on a number of projects in particular within the Italia-Malta Interreg programmes. The PUPT have extensive experience in cell culture and pathway identification while UOM a 25 year experience in DNA analysis and a state of the art infrastructure. MCST expertise in event organisation and media interaction will co-ordinate the publicity work package for all partners, including publicity, meetings, website and information tools.

The Breast Cancer Surveillance programmes in the three regions are targeting women at risk of breast cancer. Early identification has been proven to reduce the mortality and morbidity in these populations.  The introduction of prevention programmes has resulted in a reduction of both  regional and national health costs related to the treatment of advanced malignancy. Health prevention interventions such as IMaGenX may reduce days absent from work and allow earlier re-entry of women back to work, resulting in an economical benefit.

The proposed network and the sharing of infrastructures shall increase the research potential of both institutions in both regions.   Research in the field of biotechnology is multidisciplinary, and invariably undertaken through a multicenter network. The sharing of infrastructure would also result in the lowering of costs in the research field that should have a direct economical impact on both institutions. Research clusters are known to be a major plus point for investors in the fields of biotechnology and IMT – such a structure would have a direct beneficial effect on Malta’s Bio technology park.

Both the clinical and research arms of the project, can offer training courses for similar organisations and initiatives in regions within and external to the EU.

As the project targets the identification of environmental, lifestyle and genetic risks of breast cancer, it as no direct environmental impact. On the other hand, by identifying possible breast cancer environmental and lifestyle risks in the regions, timely interventions to reduce the exposure of the population to these risks can be implemented.

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