By Patricia B. Mirasol 

THE Basic Science Research Laboratory (BSRL) of St. Luke’s Medical Center College of Medicine-William H. Quasha Memorial (SLMCCM-WHQM) is investing in equipment to support its cancer research, among other things.  

The lab is conducting three student-led studies on breast cancer, an anticancer drug, and schizophrenia.  

“The BSR Laboratory has the capacity to test for anti-cancer activity, as well as test for in-vitro baseline studies in cancer and other pathologies. These studies are important in understanding drug interactions, cellular responses to stimuli, and compound bioactivity, among others,” said Mark Pierre S. Dimamay, BSR department head, in an e-mail to BusinessWorld.   

The lab plans to expand its cell library to accommodate cancer and non-cancer cell lines — tools to understand the mechanisms involved in cancer — and invest in an advanced multimodal microplate reader, which enables the study of biochemical reactions. No official word on the timeline was given. 

“By investing in the BSR laboratory’s capabilities, we envision the laboratory to be a nationally competitive research center for studies involving cell cultures moving forward,” Mr. Dimamay said in a press statement.  

The aforementioned student-led studies involve proteins associated with epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), said to have a role in the spread of breast tumor to other parts of the body; the toxicity caused by doxorubicin, an anti-cancer drug, in heart cells called cardiomyocytes; and the regulation of a schizophrenia-related protein using sequences of miRNAs, which help regulate processes at the cellular level and is importance in brain function and disease 

“In SLMCCM, students are encouraged to work on proposals and projects involving health issues that are of particular interest to them and more importantly, issues that they deem relevant to our society today,” senior research technologist Carlo A. Limbo told BusinessWorld 

Breast cancer is among the leading types of cancer worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Schizophrenia, meanwhile, is a leading diagnosis among mental health disorders in the Philippines, according to a 2021 study by Gueverra et al. WHO reported in March 2020 that of the 213,423 Filipinos diagnosed with schizophrenia, 18.5% received treatment 

“Establishing genetic links and other physical manifestations of schizophrenia can also help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health issues and its negative impacts on all aspects of a patient’s life,” Mr. Limbo said. 

The laboratory, which started hosting research undertakings in the latter half of 2019, counts an inverted light microscope, CO2 incubator, refrigerated benchtop centrifuge, and a biosafety cabinet as its core equipment.  

SLMCCM-WHQM is fourth among 87 health universities ranked by the Institute of Research, Innovation, and Scholarship (IRIS). According to IRIS, a vibrant research culture is correlated with a high quality of instructions at the tertiary level.  

Its base hospital, SLMC, is a member of the Metro Manila Health Research Development Consortium under the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Council for Health Research and Development. SLMC is also a research partner with the planned Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines.