Finding Consensus On Cancer Vulnerabilities

Using a system that integrates readouts from multiple genomics analysis algorithms, a research group in Singapore is able to pinpoint targeted therapies for individual tumors.

AsianScientist (Jan. 8, 2018) – Scientists in Singapore have combined multiple algorithms for genomics analysis to isolate the Achilles heel of tumors, thus enabling targeted treatment. They published their findings in the journal Cancer Research.

Cancer is among the leading causes of death worldwide and was responsible for 8.8 million deaths in 2015. The global economic impact of the disease was estimated at approximately US$ 1.16 trillion in 2010. Over the years, breakthroughs in DNA sequencing technologies have allowed researchers to determine the complete genetic makeup of cancers.

Cancer cells have thousands of genetic lesions, but only a handful of these mutations give rise to a tumor. Identifying the ‘driver’ mutations that promote the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells in the body is a key challenge for the emerging field of precision oncology.

In the present study, a team of researchers led by Dr. Denis Bertrand and Professor Niranjan Nagarajan from A*STAR’s Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) analyzed data from more than 3,000 tumors, across 15 different cancer types including colon, breast, lung, stomach and liver cancer. They studied 18 different existing algorithms and found that each one of them on its own could not identify driver mutations in a significant proportion of patients.

Furthermore, no single method was able to identify treatable drivers in more than 60 percent of patients. By identifying the different strengths of the algorithms and combining them, the researchers devised a new system, known as ConsensusDriver, which was able to identify treatment targets in nearly all patients studied, 80 percent of whom could be treated with existing drugs.

“Developing ConsensusDriver and working with The Cancer Genome Atlas has been an eye-opening experience. This is collaborative science on an international scale and we are making rapid advances in being able to give the right drug to the right patient at the right time,” said Bertrand.

“It is remarkable that computer algorithms have become a new weapon in the battle against cancer. Instead of clubbing cancer cells with drugs indiscriminately, we are now trying to computationally pinpoint genetic weaknesses to target them with drugs more precisely,” said Nagarajan.

GIS Executive Director Professor Ng Huck Hui added that the complexity of cancer genetics is one of the biggest challenges that clinicians face in treating it. By precisely identifying actionable mutations, and tailoring treatments to individuals, researchers are moving a step closer to precision medicine.

The article can be found at: Bertrand et al. (2017) ConsensusDriver Improves upon Individual Algorithms for Predicting Driver Alterations in Different Cancer Types and Individual Patients.


Source: A*STAR.
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