LONDON: Cancer researcher in the UK launches what they call the world's first "Darwinian" drug development program in an attempt to overcome cancer's ability to become resistant to even the newest treatments and recurrence in many patients.
While not abandoning the search for an ultimate cure, the "anti-evolution" project will focus on turning cancer into a drug-controlled disease for many years.
This would be a bit like HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, the researchers told reporters at a briefing.
"The ability of cancer to adapt, develop and become drug resistant is the cause of the vast majority of deaths from the disease and the biggest challenge we face to overcome it," said Paul Workman, head of the UK Institute for Cancer Research (ICR) – a charity and research institute that will lead the new Cancer Drug Discovery Center.
The Center is funded with £ 75 million (US $ 96.5 million) from the ICR will "attempt to meet the challenge of the cancer development head," Workman said by blocking his development process.
Teams in the new center will initially focus on two possible ways to do this.
The first, called "evolutionary cure", involves selecting an initial specific treatment that forces cancer cells to adapt in a way that makes them highly susceptible to a second drug or drives them an evolutionary death end.
The other will explore a possible new drug class to target the ability of the cancer to develop and become resistant to the treatment. These potential drugs would be designed to block the action of molecules called APOBEC proteins found in the body's immune system.
Researchers hope that a new class of APOBEC inhibitors can be developed and given along with targeted cancer treatments to try to keep cancer
Combination therapies using multiple topical or new treatments will also be investigated, Workman said.
Olivia Rossanese, a cancer medical discovery specialist who will lead the new center's biological team, said the idea was to build a global center of expertise for anti-evolution therapies so that researchers could "stop playing catching up" with cancer.
"This Darwinian approach to drug discovery gives us the best chance of fighting cancer," she said, "because we will be able to predict what cancer will do and take a step forward."
(Reporting Kate Kelland; Editing by Mark Heinrich)