Medical Treatment Research Tackles Drug Resistance

Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research in London have invested an estimated €83 million in a new Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery unit where teams of scientists will investigate a variety of approaches to tackle the growing threat of cancer resistance to medical treatment.

Unfortunately, resistance to many types of cancer is all too common. Hence, it has become the second leading cause of death with up to 40% of people developing the illness and close to half the amount dying from it. Most patients receive some form of cancer in their older ages, where up to 90% of individuals encounter the illness when they are over 50 years of age. Often at times a patient may respond well to the treatment in the first few weeks, months or even possibly up to a year. Despite the initial positive signs of improvement, this is where a stand-still occurs; the treatment no longer works, and tumors begin to grow again.

This risk of having cancer cells evolve and gradually develop immunity has been a major problem over the years with patients potentially relapsing when their cancer shows signs of resistance to therapy. What the Institute of Cancer Research hopes to achieve is to develop a drug that can combat or regulate the cancer cells’ ability to evolve. This drug approach is said to target the protein molecule called the Apobec, which aids the immune system to succumb to a variety of infections. By attacking this molecule, which is gradually controlled by most types of cancer cells, the infectious cells weaken making them less prone to mutation and more susceptible to treatment. Another procedure that the Institute wishes to investigate further on is the ‘evolutionary herding’ tactic which hinders a cancer’s development and makes it defenseless to treatment and drugs. Centre’s Deputy Director of Cancer Evolution, Andrea Sottoriva, explains;

By encouraging cancer to evolve resistance to a treatment of our choice, we can cause it to develop weaknesses against other drugs — and hopefully send it down dead ends to its own destruction.”

With the usage of advanced technology in artificial intelligence, evolutionary herding will be a useful guide to predict how cancer will react to certain drugs. This method forces the cancer cells to adapt to each drug administered which in turn gradually weakens the cells.

Although it is forecasted that there will be no solid solution to eradicate the cancer evolution until the next 10 years or so, due to more testing and ongoing trials, researchers are confident that in the long-term cancer can become a manageable and curable disease. This way, patients can live a longer and better life.

References:

  1. Cancer: Breakthrough treatments to target drug resistance, May 2019, BBC Health
  2. UK Cancer Programme to Target Treatment resistance, May 2019, FT
  3. Breakthrough cancer treatments to target drugs resistance, May 2019, SkyNews
  4. How does cancer do that? Cancer cells find ways to resist treatment, Feb 2018, CTCA