Precision Medicine Sends Cancer for a Loop

In a tour de force of precision medicine, an international team led by two Columbia University  Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC)  researchers has demonstrated the potential of a new approach to prostate cancer treatment. The iterative strategy, named OncoLoop, uses a sophisticated computer algorithm to match each patient to an “avatar” -- a carefully engineered laboratory model of a cancer that matches the molecular profile of the patient's tumor. By selecting drugs that target the master regulator proteins responsible for the genetic program driving the avatar’s tumor, the team can then validate the treatment regimen most likely to work in that patient.

“We take a patient, we match them to the set of mouse tumors we already have, and to the set of drug data that we already have, and then actually identify drugs that are most likely to work in both the patient and the model … test those drugs in those  models, and then use that information to inform clinical treatment,” says  Cory Abate-Shen , PhD,  a senior author on the new work and member of the HICCC and department chair of  Molecular Pharmacology and Therapeutics  at Columbia University  Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S) .

The strategy solves a fundamental problem in cancer drug research: cellular and animal models of the disease are often considered to be poor mimics of any particular patient’s tumor. “There’s been tremendous controversy around what is a good model, and so we decided that maybe we needed a more quantitative and sophisticated approach,” says  Andrea Califano , Dr., chair of the  Department of Systems Biology  at VP&S and co-leader of the  Precision Oncology and Systems Biology program  at the HICCC. Dr. Califano is also a senior author on the new paper, published in  Cancer Discovery(link is external and opens in a new window) .

Read  full article  on the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center News page.