Cancer: Study identifies 600 new drug targets

Cancer: Study identifies 600 new drug targets

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Improved cancer treatment in the near future?

Much progress has been made in the treatment of cancer in recent decades. Researchers have now cut cancer cells into tiny pieces to better uncover the weaknesses of the disease. This has given rise to some new ideas and strategies for treating cancer.

A recent study by the Wellcome Sanger Institute identified new starting points for the treatment of cancer. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Nature".

Current treatments are not targeted at cancer cells

The study included 30 different types of cancer. The study revealed approximately 600 new cancer cell vulnerabilities, each of which could be the target of a drug. Improved treatment of cancer is urgently needed because current treatment methods such as chemotherapy are extremely harmful to the body and only promise limited success. This therapy also affects the entire body and the treatments are not aimed directly at the cancer cells, the researchers say.

Treat cancer without harming healthy tissue

The information uncovered in this study has identified key cancer cell weaknesses and will enable the development of drugs that target cancer and leave healthy tissue intact. Cancer is caused by mutations in our body's own cells that change the instructions set out in our DNA. Mutations cause the cells to grow uncontrollably so that they spread throughout the body, which ultimately leads to the death of those affected.

Researchers used controversial CRISPR technology

In the study, any genetic instruction (genes) within cancers was deactivated. This was to determine which instructions are of vital importance for survival. The researchers disassembled almost 20,000 genes from over 300 tumors from 30 different types of cancer grown in the laboratory. For this they used a technology called CRISPR. With this genetic engineering, two babies were genetically engineered in China last year, which caused great international debate. It is a relatively new, simple and inexpensive tool for manipulating DNA. Such a study would have been completely unthinkable a decade ago.

600 new targets for medication

The new results reveal 600 important genes that at least one type of cancer needs to survive. However, some of them were unsuitable for the development of cancer drugs because they are also essential for healthy cells. Others are already targeting precision drugs like Herceptin for breast cancer. But many genes have not yet been considered in the manufacture of suitable drugs. Therefore, the researchers defined a shortlist of 600 potential new drug targets.

What is WRN?

A potential target is Werner's syndrome RecQ helicase, also known more simply as WRN. It is essential to keep some of the most genetically unstable cancers alive. WRN plays an important role in about 15 percent of colon cancers and 28 percent of gastric cancers, but there are no medications that target it.

Researchers plan to develop Cancer Dependency Map

The ultimate goal of the research is to develop a so-called Cancer Dependency Map for every vulnerability in every type of cancer. Then doctors could test a patient's tumor and give him a cocktail of precision medicines to kill the cancer cells. In this way, cancer cells could be targeted without harming the whole body, as is the case with chemotherapy. This research offers some excellent starting points, and the next step will be a thorough analysis of the genes identified as vulnerabilities in this study to determine if they could one day lead to the development of new treatments for patients. (as)

Author and source information

Video: An Automated Cancer Organoid Culture Platform to Accelerate Research and Drug Screening (July 2022).


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