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Drug combination hope for hard-to-treat cancers

Tuesday March 1st 2022

Combining multiple drugs could provide effective therapies for some hard-to-treat cancers, British researchers have reported.

Research by the Wellcome Sanger Institute and collaborators, expands on the Cancer Dependency Map, which aims to systematically identify vulnerabilities in cancer cells to drive forward development of new treatments.

They created the world's largest resource that shows possible effective combinations for further study after testing combinations of cancer drugs.

The paper, published in *Nature*, also linked biomarkers that could help to identify patients who would benefit from the newly highlighted combinations.

The researchers hope other scientists can use this freely available resource to help the future clinical development of combination therapies.

The team analysed already clinically relevant drugs and used systematic testing of drug combinations combined with analysis of genetic information and multi-omics techniques on cell lines.

To demonstrate their analysis is effective in a real world application, they verified a drug combination in mice using colon cancer cells with a specific double mutation, which halted tumour growth.

Co-first author Dr Patricia Jaaks said: "Being able to identify specific effective combinations of drugs that work together against cancer cells can catalyse the development of new therapies. This helps to ensure that those living with cancer, especially hard to treat or resistant cancers, have new treatment options when they need them."

Dr Elizabeth Coker, co-first author, added: "This open resource uses in-depth genetic analysis to help understand which drugs work best together and to identify patients who could benefit the most. In addition to the combinations that we discovered, this research uses the largest number of cell lines to date in this type of study, enabling future studies to uncover more possible combinations."

Dr Mathew Garnett, senior author and group leader at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said the resource could help to introduce empower precision oncology and starts to write the rule book for combining different drugs to overcome resistance, limiting toxicity of pre-existing drugs, and expanding the range of options for patients with breast, colon or pancreatic cancer.

Jaaks P, Coker E, Vis D et al. Effective drug combinations in breast, colon and pancreatic cancer cells. *Nature* 23 February 2022; doi: 10.1038/s41586-022-04437-2

Tags: Cancer | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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