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A new drug discovery programme with a “Darwinian” approach to treating cancer will be opened at the Institute of Cancer Research in London.
The new Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery will use “evolutionary herding” to tackle cancer’s ability to evolve resistance to treatment.
Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “Cancer’s ability to adapt, evolve and become drug resistant is the cause of the vast majority of deaths from the disease and the biggest challenge we face in overcoming it.”
Dr Andrea Sottoriva, Deputy Director of Cancer Evolution at the new centre, said: “By encouraging cancer to evolve resistance to a treatment of our choice, we can cause it to develop weaknesses against other drugs – and hopefully send it down dead ends and to its own destruction.”
Some ICR scientists believe powerful chemotherapy treatments fail because they help fuel competition and evolution of cancer cells that are able to withstand chemotherapy – which it calls “survival of the nastiest”.
Using AI and mathematical predictive methods, the centre’s approach will force cancer DNA to adapt to one treatment by developing weaknesses against others, making them highly susceptible to a second drug or pushing them to an evolutionary dead end.
The new centre will work to create the world’s first anti-evolution cancer drug to slow down the disease’s ability to evolve and so delay its resistance to treatment. It will also devise multi-drug combinations that block several different cancer genes at once or boost the immune system – as used to achieve long-term control for HIV and tuberculosis.
The Institute of Cancer Research will invest £75 million in creating a global centre of expertise in anti-evolution therapies. ICR is seeking a further £15 million in donations to complete and equip the building.

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