The German Cancer Research Center awarded the “Richstein Heinz Award” for distinguished research in the field of oncology for the year 2021 to Sadik, in recognition of his discovery in the field of cancer research.
Regarding his scientific achievements, Sadiq told Sky News Arabia: “During 3 years, specifically from 2018 to 2021, 14 research papers were published in prestigious scientific journals such as Cell and Nature Communication, and 3 international patents were registered, and I obtained a doctorate degree with honors. from Heidelberg University in Germany in Biology and Bioinformatics.
The Egyptian researcher explained that the award he won is granted once every two years, and the candidates for it are chosen very carefully according to their work on cancer research from those who have a doctorate degree that has not passed for more than two years, and who, through their research, help provide better opportunities to develop treatments for this disease. .
Sadiq pointed out that “researchers in research centers associated with Heidelberg University, which is the university cooperating with the research center that awards the award, can apply for the award,” noting that the studies of 400 researchers were discussed during the past two years before announcing the winner of this competition for the year 2021.
According to the researcher, “the importance of this award comes from the fact that Professor Harald zur Hausen, recipient of the 1977 Nobel Prize in Medicine, won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Medicine, which made it a strong influence factor for researchers during the publication of their research, and their nomination for other prestigious scientific awards.”
Sadiq said that the research for which he received the award was “the result of my doctoral thesis, where I discovered a new enzyme that causes resistance of cancer tumors to the immunotherapy given to the patient. This research represents an answer to why many cancer patients do not respond to this type of treatment.”
He revealed that this study “motivates the conduct of other clinical studies to identify the nature of the action of this enzyme,” adding that the research cost amounted to about two million euros, sponsored by donor agencies, and took 5 years.
The Egyptian researcher stressed the importance of his scientific achievement and its uniqueness, saying: “I was the only one among the eight winners of the award who got the result of my work in computational biology, which depends on using the latest techniques of applied mathematics, informatics, statistics and computer science, to solve vital biological problems.”
Sadiq talked about the motivation that made him embark on a research, saying: “The importance of this research lies in answering a question that says: Why do not 20 percent of cancer patients undergoing immunotherapy respond to treatment? Despite the tremendous progress in the field of cancer treatments that aim to enhance and improve the ability of the immune system. For affected people to track and eliminate cancer cells by disrupting cancer cells, this percentage represents those who do not respond to immune-stimulating therapies.”
He added, “This question helped many researchers discover some types of cancer that produce factors that overcome this type of immunotherapy, which resulted in the design of clinical trials that combine both immunotherapies and drugs that target resistance factors, but unfortunately these experiments failed.” Therefore, there is a need to find out the reason behind this.”
The Egyptian researcher, who tracks the main proteins regulating the work of immune cells through the use of bioinformatics, resorted to studying the most important of these proteins, AHR, which in its work is similar to the work of a sensor. Modify the functions of immune cells according to the situation faced.
Sadiq explained that “tumors have learned to use this protein well, by activating different genetic programs to change the characteristics of cancer cells and make them more aggressive and able to escape from the immune system, as well as to disrupt the work of immune cells at the same time.”
The difficulty is that if two people have the same type of cancer, the response of this protein is different in each of them, which puzzled researchers at the time because there was no way for them to know the nature of the activity of the different AHR protein according to the type of cancer and its activators, which change from one patient to another. .
Through the use of artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, and machine learning, Sadiq was able to create a new method that allows detecting whether this protein was activated or not, as well as determining the factors that caused its activation, and the type of genetic programs that will result in it with different types of cancer and activators.
All of this provided the ability to predict which patients might respond to immune-stimulating therapies, as well as which of them might respond better if they received other treatments.
The result of all of the above was the discovery of a new enzyme found in many cancers, which in turn activates AHR, as well as the identification of the role that the new enzyme plays in increasing the aggressiveness of cancer cells and weakening and inhibiting immune cells.
It was also found that immunotherapy for melanoma patients leads to a significantly higher activity of the AHR protein, which in turn increases the production of the detected enzyme in large quantities, which leads to the possibility that these patients will not respond to the immunotherapy.
This discovery is one of the 3 patents obtained by the Egyptian researcher, where the second patent was for the development of a method for detecting certain compounds in the blood or tumor samples through which it is possible to know whether tumors can resist treatment that activates immune cells or not.
As for the first patent, it was about a method for discovering and developing active substances that could be used in the development of new types of treatments, which could improve the performance of the immune system in fighting tumors.
It is noteworthy that Sadeq is a fellow and senior researcher at the German Center for Oncology Research in Heidelberg, Germany, and is responsible for evaluating and licensing inventions and intellectual property rights at the German Center in the field of artificial intelligence-based oncology research.