Cancer could become long-term ‘manageable’ condition with new class of ‘anti-evolution’ drugsMegan Orito
Cancer could become long-term ‘manageable’ condition with new class of ‘anti-evolution’ drugs.
CREDIT: DAVID MACK
Cancer could become a long-term “manageable” condition thanks to a new generation of “anti-evolution” drugs, Britain’s leading research body has said.
The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) is to radically shift its approach towards one of enabling patients with the disease live longer, better quality lives, the body announced yesterday.
While continuing to search for drugs capable of eradicating cancer, the organisation is launching a £90 million centre aimed specifically at suppressing cancer by preventing cells from becoming resistant to treatment.
The multidrug “herding” technique, which forces cancer DNA to adapt to one treatment by developing weaknesses against others, could become an “effective cure”, ICR scientists said.
Last night they compared it to HIV medication, which does not cure the virus but affords many infected people long normal life expectancy.
It is hoped that the first anti-evolution drugs will become available to patients within 10 years.
The researchers said the traditional “shock and awe” approach of chemotherapy often fails because it fuels a “survival of the nastiest” competition among any cells not destroyed by the treatment.
Professor Paul Workman, ICR chief executive, said: “ Cancer’s ability to adapt, evolve and become drug resistant is the cause of the vast majority of deaths from the disease and the biggest challenge we face in overcoming it.
“We firmly believe that, with further research, we can find ways to make cancer a manageable disease in the long term and one that is more often curable, so patients can live longer and with a better quality of life.”
The new Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery, based adjacent to the Royal Marsden hospital in London, will recruit mathematicians and computer science experts to use artificial intelligence to forecast how cancers will react when treated with a particular drug.
Specialists are finding that by selecting an initial drug treatment they can force cancer cells to adapt in a way that makes them highly susceptible to a second drug, or pushes them into an evolutionary dead end.
Dr Olivia Rossanese, the new centre’s head of biology, said: “This Darwinian approach to drug discovery gives us the best chance yet of defeating cancer because we will be able to predict what cancer is going to do next and get one step ahead.”
Describing the development of a new class of “APOBEC” inhibitors, which slows down the pace of treatment-resistant evolution in cancer cells, she added: “We believe this is the first treatment in the world that rather than dealing with the consequences of cancer’s evolution and resistance, aims to directly confront the disease’s ability to adapt and evolve in the first place.”
The ICR is investing £75 million in a new Centre for Drug Discovery at its Sutton campus and is appealing for a further £15 million to finish the project which will bring together almost 300 scientists from various fields to work together.
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