Scientists combat the ‘survival of the nastiest’ cancers

Scientists combat the ‘survival of the nastiest’ cancers


A new plan to target cancer’s ability to evolve has been announced today and is scheduled to be implemented over the next five years.



Oral cancer squamous cell / Courtesy of KGH

Recent research has shown that cancer has the ability to adapt in response to intense treatment.  Resilient tumour cells are able to duplicate themselves and thrive after surviving initial blasts of treatment. This can lead to a situation where the disease becomes immune to certain treatments.

Often, after undergoing treatment, many patients find that their cancer returns in a more virulent fashion, with doctors powerless to help. Often referred to as ‘survival of the nastiest’, the evolution of cancers is one of the greatest challenges facing the medical practitioners attempting to defeat the disease.

On Friday the 22nd of July experts at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) met in London to outline a new plan to overcome the adaptive capacity of cancer.

The new strategy, entitled: ‘Making the discoveries: our strategy to defeat cancer’, will focus on predicting the path of cancer’s evolution and then proceed to create therapies forestalling this possibility.

Utilising a variety of techniques, including ‘Big Data’ computing,  the stratecy will apply mathematical formulas, machine learning and computer modelling to understand the complex development of tumours.

Researchers hope to discover how cancers are able to survive and develop techniques  to ‘cut off’ possible ‘escape roots’ of the disease during treatment.

Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “Cancer evolution is the single biggest challenge we face in creating better treatments for patients.”

“With such a major, enduring, complex challenge, we need a concerted effort to shift our approach to cancer research, and to focus pretty much everything we do on anticipating, outpacing and overcoming cancer evolution,” he added. “Our new joint research strategy fires the starting gun on a race against cancer evolution, as we aim to predict the disease’s behaviour in order to stay one step ahead.”

ICR is committed to taking new approaches to treatment, early diagnosis and prevention from the research stage into routine clinical practice across the NHS. Find out more at:

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