Scientists will target cancer’s ecosystems under new strategy


Cancer is supported by complex ecosystems within the body which can be disrupted by cutting-edge new treatments and cures, cancer researchers have concluded. 

The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust have revealed plans to direct research against the cells, signals and immune response in the tissue environment that nurtures tumours. 

The five-year research strategy aims to unravel cancer’s ecosystem, diagnose cancer better and earlier, target cancer’s weaknesses and treat cancer more precisely. 

Under this approach, researchers are confident that doubling survival of people with advanced cancer within a decade is a realistic goal. 

Confronting cancer’s evolution 

The new strategy aims to implement new approaches to target cancer – by setting up streamlined processes to prioritise potential drug targets and employing state-of-the-art technology to eradicate cancer proteins from cells. 

Scientists will also employ AI to design new ways to combine drugs or adjust their dosing – with the aim of confronting cancer’s evolution within its ecosystem and increasing the length of time that people can survive with advanced cancer. 

Professor Kristian Helin, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “We have created a really exciting plan to unravel and disrupt cancer’s ecosystems, with new immunotherapies, drugs to target the tissue environment, and clever new anti-evolution combinations and dosing strategies. 

“We’re also confident that through the use of artificial intelligence in combination with detailed biological insights, we can find ways of combining existing treatments to control cancer’s evolution within its ecosystem and significantly increase the overall survival of cancer patients.” 

Opening up new lines of attack

By further investing in cutting-edge genomic, proteomic, epigenetic, immunopeptidomic, and microscopy technologies, the scientists aim to examine cancer cells, molecules, and ecosystems at unprecedented resolution.  

The ICR seeks to increase funds for research, invest in new collaborative research centres, and form stronger partnerships with industry and academic institutions, both in the UK and globally.  

Dr Olivia Rossanese, Director of Cancer Drug Discovery at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, added: “We plan to open up completely new lines of attack against cancer, so we can overcome cancer’s deadly ability to evolve and become resistant to treatment. We want to discover better targets within tumours and the wider ecosystem that we can attack with drugs.” 


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