Queen’s cancer treatment DNA breakthrough

In a groundbreaking first, research led by Queen’s University Belfast has found thousands of ‘Achilles Heels’ or ‘cancer vulnerabilities’ in an analysis of more than 700 different cancer cell types.

In future, this could lead to new ways to stop cancer cells in their tracks by using existing drugs, as well as proposing new targets for drug development. These drugs could even be used to combat cancers that are resistant to the current standard treatments.

To conduct their study, the researchers created a computer programme called ‘MultiSEp’ that analyses large and complex datasets.

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Dr Ian Overton, senior lecturer from the Patrick G Johnston Centre for Cancer Research (PGJCCR) at Queen’s University, said: “Understanding the molecular fingerprints of cancer can pinpoint ways to target drugs precisely to those patients where they will be most effective. Our work makes a step towards more effective and personalised cancer treatments, ultimately saving lives.

“We make our results available on the ‘Synthetic Lethality with Genetics and Genomics’ web server, opening a window to share these rich resources with researchers across the scientific community – in order to accelerate progress in cancer research globally.”

Cancers frequently become more dangerous by mutating to stop some protective genes called tumour suppressors - leaving the tumour reliant upon a back-up gene. Hitting the back-up gene with a ‘chemical hammer’, can therefore kill the cancer cells.

This new programme has identified thousands of back-up genes in more than 700 different kinds of cancer cell types, providing the intelligence to design more effective treatments in the war against cancer.

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