An international team of scientists from Spain, Turkey and the Czech Republic aims to develop a sensor that would be able to monitor the treatment of childhood cancer—neuroblastoma. The team will also involve researchers from Palacký University’s CATRIN who will capitalize upon the years of experience of preparing graphene derivatives. This three-year European grant started on 1 February, with the Czech participation being funded by the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic as part of the EuroNanoMed.

Neuroblastoma is the most common cancer in children beginning during the first year of life, with survival rates remaining below 40 percent. Immunotherapy has recently made huge progress, but its effectiveness is hampered by the appearance of so-called HAHA antibodies in the human body. Although these can be detected by a diagnostic tool called the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), it is a time-consuming and complex method requiring trained staff and expensive laboratory equipment.

These disadvantages should be overcome by a new graphene-based sensor based on the principle of paper electrophoresis. The multidisciplinary international team will be coordinated by Arben Merkoçi from the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in Barcelona, one of the world leaders in the field of sensors. It was him who invited the Olomouc team to cooperate.

“Our role in this project will be the development of new graphene derivatives. The correct choice of     a suitable graphene derivative is essential for the sensor design. We are developing a material with suitable functional groups that will be able to bind a specific antibody in the analyzed sample and thus provide the required analytical signal,” said Michal Otyepka, Head of the Olomouc team. The research will also be carried out by the Turkish biotechnology company Nehir Biyteknoloji Ltd. and the Spanish organization Fundació Sant Joan de Déu (FSJD), where neuroblastoma is treated.

“A device that would be able to simultaneously monitor the effectiveness of the treatment and occurrence of HAHA antibodies in the body has huge potential to maximize the effectiveness of immunological treatment and reduce the risk of adverse effects to a minimum. This would essentially revolutionize the way neuroblastoma is treated,” added David Panáček from CATRIN.

A total of 43 Czech applicants, engaged in 35 research projects, submitted their proposals for the international EuroNanoMed 2021, which was aimed at research in the field of nanomedicine. The Technology Agency of the Czech Republic (TA ČR) will support three successful Czech teams.