LONDON: Cancer researchers in the UK are launching the world's first "Darwinian" drug development program to outperform cancer, becoming resistant to even the latest treatments, and reoccurring in many patients.
While not abandoning the search for the ultimate cure, the "anti-evolution" project will once again focus on transforming cancer into a drug-controllable disease for many years.
"The ability of cancer to adapt, evolve and become resistant is the cause of the vast majority of deaths from the disease and the biggest challenge we face in overcoming this disease." Paul Workman, Executive Director of the UK Cancer Research Center (ICR) – a charity and research organization that will lead the new cancer drug discovery center. According to Workman, the ICR is "trying to tackle the challenge of cancer development" by addressing its evolutionary process blocked.
The teams of the new center will initially focus on two possible ways to achieve this.
The first treatment, called "evolutionary herding," forces cancer cells to adapt to being very susceptible to a second drug, or to end up in an evolutionarily dead state.
The second is to investigate a possible new class of drugs that target the ability of cancer to develop and become resistant to treatment. These potential drugs are designed to block the action of molecules known as APOBECs, which are found in the body's immune system.
Researchers hope that a new class of APOBEC inhibitors could be developed and co-administered with targeted cancer therapies to keep cancer at bay According to Workman, combination therapies with several current or new therapies are also being investigated. Olivia Rossanese, a cancer drug discovery specialist who will lead the new center's biology team, said the idea was to build a global center of expertise in anti-evolutionary therapies so that scientists no longer have to "catch up" with cancer.
"This Darwinist approach to drug discovery offers us the best chance yet of conquering cancer," she said, "because we can predict what cancer will do next and stay one step ahead."
(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editor of Mark Heinrich)