Driving cancer evolution into dead end could beat drug resistance
Image: Metastatic neuroblastoma (cropped). Credit: Orli Yogev, ICR
ICR researchers have found that it is possible to steer the evolution of cancer cells so that they develop vulnerabilities to treatment.
The findings could in future guide clinical decisions in treating cancer and help to overcome cancer’s ability to become drug resistant.
Cancer is difficult to treat because it can evolve and adapt to changes in its environment, including becoming resistant to therapy.
ICR scientists led by Professor Andrea Sottoriva studied lung cancer cells as they developed resistance to cancer drugs to explore these mechanisms.
Many of the cancer cells died in response to the drugs, but some drug-resistant cells survived and multiplied to become dominant.
They identified mutations that occurred early in tumour development which could offer clues about how tumours evolve to develop resistance, and could also be exploited to make cancer vulnerable.
Study leader Professor Andrea Sottoriva, Director of the Centre for Evolution and Cancer at the ICR, said:
“Understanding how tumours evolve in response to treatment is key to delivering better care for patients. Our research shows that we can manipulate cancer by steering its evolutionary development to leave it highly susceptible to treatment.”
By carefully selecting sequences of drugs to treat cancer, doctors could force cancer cells to adapt into evolutionary dead ends that can be targeted by treatments, leaving the disease no way to survive.
The research was published in the Journal Nature Communications, and was funded by Wellcome, Cancer Research UK and the National Institute of Health Research.