Scientists Reveal New Lines of Attack to Increase Cancer Survival Rate | Research against cancer

Scientists hope to double the survival rate of people with advanced cancer within a decade by using new lines of attack to fight the disease.

Speaking at the launch of a five-year joint research strategy by the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation in London, experts described how targeting non-cancerous cells in tumors could open new frontiers in the fight against disease, allowing more people to be cured and others to survive much longer.

Although cancer is initially caused by mutations that cause cells to grow and divide abnormally, the environment of a tumor affects how it grows and spreads. “We increasingly see disease as a complex ecosystem, in which cancer cells evolve amidst a web of cells and signals from surrounding tissues and the immune system,” said the ICR’s chief executive. , Professor Kristian Helin. “We have identified the evolution of cancer in [this] ecosystem as a major challenge and an opportunity for the next five years.

One strategy they plan to deploy is to break the ability of cancer cells to ask other cells to come and support them. For example, cancer cells sometimes send signals to the bone marrow, instructing “slave cells” to create “nests” in other parts of the body where cancer cells could migrate and create secondary tumors. Interrupting these systems would help stop the spread of cancer.

Experts are also learning how they could use drugs that talk to the immune system, increasing its ability to recognize and destroy cancer cells and dampening the activities of immune cells that are co-opted to help protect cancer cells.

“We aim to tip the scales in favor of the immune system and make the environment inhospitable to cancer cells and favorable to elements of the immune system that can attack them, so that we can eradicate the disease in the body,” said said Kevin. Harrington, Professor of Biological Cancer Therapeutics at ICR and Consultant at Royal Marsden.

Another lead is to use genetically engineered viruses to “target cancer cells and also talk to the microenvironment, the ecosystem that cancer is in, to generate a signal to reject cancer and kill those cancer cells,” he said. said Professor Harrington.

Scientists will also expand research supporting the development of ‘liquid biopsies’ to identify the disease in its early stages. Tumors often release microscopic fragments of genetic material into the bloodstream, which could be detected and used to inform treatment. Already, such blood tests are being used to personalize cancer treatment and identify recurrences earlier.

Dr Naureen Starling, Consultant Medical Oncologist at Royal Marsden, said: “We believe this technology also has the potential to transform cancer diagnosis, particularly for traditionally hard-to-detect tumor types such as the pancreas. [cancer]which could lead to rapid improvements in patient outcomes.

The researchers also plan to use artificial intelligence to devise new ways to combine drugs or adjust their dosage – with the aim of blocking the progression of cancer within its ecosystem and increasing survival time. people with advanced cancer.

Dr Olivia Rossanese, Director of Cancer Drug Discovery at ICR, said: “We plan to open up entirely new lines of attack against cancer, so that we can overcome cancer’s deadly ability to grow and become resistant to treatment.

“We want to discover better targets within tumors and the broader ecosystem that we can attack with drugs. We’re finding powerful new ways to completely eradicate cancerous proteins and discovering smarter combination treatments that attack cancer on multiple fronts.

“Together, this three-pronged approach can create smarter, gentler cancer treatments and give patients a longer life with fewer side effects.”

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