Hybrid Conference held in Valletta

The first on-site GYNOCARE COST Action Conference was held at the Aula Magna, Valletta Campus, Univeristy of Malta. Hybrid facilities were also available for those participants who could not be present physically on site.

Minutes of the Gynocare Cost Action Conference 

Day 1 - 23.05.2022

Speaker 1: Prof. Jean Calleja Agius

  • Challenges connected with rare gynaecological cancers
  • Who is GynoCare
    • Over 140 members
  • Historical review of the University of Malta Medical School

Speaker 2: Professor Simon Fabri, Pro-Rector

  • Brief introsuction of the University of Malta
    • Outline of the vision and input of the academics, students, research, administrative, and support staff
    • History of the Medical school and the founding of the Anatomy Department in 1676 and its incorporation with the Medical School in 1771
    • Current acadmic staff 750
    • 11K students
    • 400 Phd Students
  • Currently 2 mega projects with a total of 85 Million (European Structural Funds)

Speaker 3 : Mr Stephen Borg, COST National Co-ordinator

  • Administering several R&I programs
  • Introduction to COST
  • Brief view of Malta history

The participation of Malta in over 70% of European COST Actions.

Speaker 4: Prof. David Faraggi

  • Introduced the eMODUS platform
  • Developed a web based multidisciplinary approach
  • Talk on the different clinical trial designs and the importance and advantages of using a program like eMODUS for the management of clinical trials
  • The main features of eModus
    • Built in quality measures
    • Better policy and decision making
    • Structured web base
    • Questionnaires
    • Specimen management
    • Different access levels depending on job description

Speaker 5: Prof. Antonio Giordano

  • Molecular mechanisms of tumor suppressor genes (TSG), and oncogenes
  • Brief highlight of work including
    • Gene cloning
    • Mechanisms and molecular pathways
    • Translational medicine
    • Interplay of genes in cancer
  • Presentation of publications
    • Cdc-associated polypetide complexes
    • Cell cycle and anti tumor strategies
      • Cyclin dependent kinases (CDKs, and protein-protein interactions
    • Covered work on ovarian cancer including the presence of fragile sites and the susceptibility to cancer and the involved of the Rb protein the cell cycle regulation and cancer

Speaker 6 : Dr Gemma Gatta

  • Population based survival study
  • Introduction to EUROCARE
    • Database to study rare cancers
    • Outline of the major issues that make rare cancers difficult to diagnose and manage
    • Touching on cancers in the female population
      • Incidence trends
      • 5year survival

Speaker 7: Prof Alex Felice

  • Historical review on how biobanking first developed in Malta
  • Importance of biobanking for rare diseases
  • An overview of population genetics
  • Demographics of the Maltese Genome & Variome of Malta
  • Malta biobank and working with local families and archiving data
  • An overview on thalassaemia and the KLF1 gene
  • Future of biobanking in malta
    • Tackling challenges
    • Engaging the public
    • Public education
    • Public/private funding
    • New born testing

Speaker 8 Prof. Charles Savona Ventura

  • Brief overview of female gynaecological cancers
  • Presentation of mortality data pre-1960 and overview of gynaecological cancers in Malta
  • Future perspectives
    • Better histological differentiation
    • Better risk factor assessment
    • Genetic interrelationship between the different gynaecological cancers

Speaker 9. Dr Bridgette Ellul

  • Presentation of the ethical and legal issues in biobanking
    • Mainly
      • Informed consent
      • Return of results
      • Sample ownership
    • Presentation of the summary of questionnaires

Speaker 10. Dr Sarah Casati

  • Ethical issues in biobanking
  • Challenges in biobanking
  • The RRI approach (Responsible Research & innovation
  • Biobank based research
    • Collaboration of research communities
    • Active participation of citizens
    • Inclusion and safe guarding of vulnerable individuals
  • Good practice of sharing information
  • Open access to data and results
  • Networking
  • Training

Speaker 11 Dr Olga Tzortzatou

  • Discussion on the legal issues of biobanking
  • Introduction of ethics principles
  • Designing of research protocols
    • Informed consent
    • Handling of samples & data
    • Quality controls required for a good research design
    • Recruitment needs to put into consideration traditions and beliefs of religious groups or sects
    • Discussing several templates and drafts and how useful they are in handling data and material transfer
  • Introduction to the B1MG (beyond 1 million genes) – A huge initiative of data transfer in about 23 countries with multiple expert input
  • Presentation of the book ‘ GDPR and biobanking’ which is a collection of important publications

Speaker 12. Dr Francesca Pentimalli

  • Overview of the cell cycle & cell cycle progression, CDKs, cyclins, and CDK inhibitors
  • The principle of synthetic lethality and PARP inhibitors
  • A recent approach by the team for gene fishing using a DNA synthetic structure as bait
  • Studied several proteins including NONO (cell cycle regulatorand how it is dysregulated in gynaecological cancers
  • A brief overview of the principles of oncolytic viral therapy and the benefits in anti-cancer therapeutics
  • An overview of the hurdles in translation studies and the importance of organoids and filling the gap between basic & translational research

Speaker 13 Dr Sharon O’Toole

  • The role of patients in biobanking
  • Patient voice in research
  • Mention of several European and global intiatives
  • An overview of cancer research at St James Hospital and Trinity College in Dublin
  • The drive to increase public awareness
    • Leaflets
    • Videos
    • Educational events
  • An awareness campaign in Ireland on Ovarian Cancer
  • The importance of patient engagement
    • The power of the patient’s story
  • The talk was finalised by a very interesting and touching video about symptoms of ovarian cancers called BEAT

Speaker 14. Prof. Evzen Amler

  • Main interests –
  • Smart regenerative medicine
    • Controlled drug delivery and theragnostics
    • The advantages of nanofibers as ideal scaffolds for regeneration
    • Nanofibers and tissue engineering
  • The potential of biomarkers in cervical vaginal fluids for early pre-cancerous diagnosis!

Speaker 15 Dr Afshin Beheshti

  • Bioinformatics in Cancer
    • Space biology
    • The composition of space environment and microgravity
    • The effects of galactic cosmic radiation (high LET)
    • The risk of space environment on health of astronauts
  • The different models in space experiments
  • Omics acquisition in space using nanopore technology
  • Mention of miRNA and the importance of studies involving miRNAs and the approach towards using miRNAs in gynaecological cancers
  • Early work on mouse models and lymphoma in space
  • The mention of reduced gravity correlation with increased miRNA
  • And the links of space flight and gynaecological cancers


Day 2: 24.05.2022

Speaker 1 Dr M. Azzopardi

  • Presentation of local data from the Malta national cancer registry
  • The importance of actively seeking new cases and looking up pathology results
  • Try to investigate cases for accurate histological diagnosis
  • Also, the collection of demographic data on each case
  • Presentation of local data including histological type of gynaecological cancers
  • Take home message – rare cancers are not so rare afterall
  • Malta rare cancers – 550 cases in the last decade

Speaker 2 Dr Klejda Kharasani

  • Clinical trials on rare gynaecological cancers
  • The challenges regarding clinical trial designs
  • Presentation of results of combinatorial therapies
  • Presentation of several other clinical trials
  • Presentation of study conclusions and design strategies

Speaker 3 Dr Maja Sabol

  • Brief explanation of the Hedgehog-GLI signalling pathway and how it is activated in tumours with overexpression of HH ligands in ovarian cancer
  • Presentation on how GLI protein is activated via different pathways
  • Mention of the methylation status of genes and how it is involved in silencing of genes with increased methylation in fibromas
  • Studied also loss of heterozygosity (LOH) and polymorphisms of PTCH1`
  • Presentation of the proteins regulated by GLI proteins in OC
  • Finally, presentation of issues and challenges in dealing with rare cancers

Speaker 4 Dr Nikolai Pace

  • Population based biobanking and genomes of Malta
  • Overview of different biobanking concepts and the reasons for population based biobanking
  • Highlighted the deliverables of biobanking
  • A scientific view on population-based biobanks
    • Facilitating research on disease biomarkers
    • Should deliver insight on allele frequency
  • Highlights on the problems and challenges of translating results to clinical diagnosis
  • A presentation of the Maltese Genome and evidence for a distinct disease genetic architecture
  • Future prospects
    • A central population-based biobank
    • A portal that gives participants access to information
  • Overview of the challenges with DNA/RNA bio

Speaker 5 Dr Neil Conlon

  • A preclinical platform to investigate novel therapies for OC
  • Overview of research work at the national institute for cellular biotechnology
  • Investigating combinatorial therapies in OC
  • Targeting the HER family
    • 2 modalities of targeting
      • Antibody based approach
      • Small tyrosine kinase inhibitor molecules

Speaker 6 Dr Mariela Vasileva-Slaveva

  • Overview of the Bulgarian National Cancer Registry
  • Overview of uterine and ovarian cancers in Bulgaria
  • Challenges encountered in Bulgaria and a round table bried discussion was held and the role of the EU in ensuring that proper healthcare reaches vulnerable patients and those with rare cancers

Speaker 7 Dr Paul Kubelac

  • Overview of research on OC
  • Onco-Ovarian Dx – a novel algorithm for pre-operative evaluation of adnexal masses
  • Overlook on prognostic markers in OC
    • Association between ID-1 and angiogenesis
    • Studies on the tissue microenvironment
    • The role of CD146 in OC
    • Studies of Toll-like receptors in OC
    • Overview of primary debulking in OC
    • Overview of debatable secondary surgery in OC patients
  • Future prospects
    • ‘molecular surgery’ – a project in collaboration with other universities in which nanoprobes were used to target cancers in mice

Speaker 8 Dr Vera Dimitrievska

  • Introduction of the project and presentation of raw data
  • The project B2-Inf (4-year Horizon 2020 project)
    • Giving voice to young people
  • Presented the background data on cancer cases in North Macedonia
  • No data on OC or Vulvar Cancer