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World's first 'Darwinian' cancer drug programme announced

Thursday May 16th, 2019

The world’s first ‘Darwinian’ drug discovery programme, designed to tackle cancer’s ability to evolve resistance to treatment, is to be launched in the UK, it is announced today.

The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London, has committed an initial £75 million in creating a global centre of expertise in anti-evolution therapies, which could help to improve cure rates. It is seeking a further £15 million to complete the new building and equip it.

ICR scientists hope to use evolutionary science to ‘herd’ cancers with anti-evolution drugs and combinations to deliver long-term control and effective cures.

They say this should replace the traditional use of chemotherapy, which has failed too often because it helps to fuel ‘survival of the nastiest’ competition and evolution among cancer cells.

The new Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery will bring together researchers from different disciplines across drug discovery and evolutionary science under one roof and will lead on pioneering projects such as using artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced maths to ‘herd’ cancer so it is forced to adapt to one treatment by developing weaknesses against others

Other projects will include the creation of the world’s first anti-evolution cancer drug and the development of multi-drug combinations that block several different cancer genes at once or that boost the immune system.

Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, 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. But that research will need support and our new Centre will dramatically accelerate the progress we’re already making.”

Dr Andrea Sottoriva, who will be deputy director of cancer evolution in the new Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery, said: “Artificial intelligence and mathematical predictive methods have huge potential to get inside cancer’s head and predict what it is going to do next and how it will respond to new treatments.

“Within our new Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery, we plan to use cancer’s survival instinct against it through an approach we call ‘evolutionary herding’. 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 and to its own destruction.”

Tags: Cancer | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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