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The roadblocks to achieving meaningful improvements in cancer treatment are well known. In a nutshell, despite important advances over the years, the world of cancer research and drug development is struggling. How and from where will much-needed breakthroughs come?
A groundbreaking company, DarwinHealth™, is digging deeper than genes to put its finger on the off-switch of cancer. Today’s approaches based on precision medicine—mutation-targeted drug therapy and immunotherapy—fall short because of the very small percentage of patients who can benefit, and the downside of severe side effects. We are in dire need of innovative strategies. To fight a disease as complex as cancer, you need an equally complex bullet. And there are few technologies currently available that address this need with the rigor or directness required.
For precision medicine to achieve its promise, we need to consider multifaceted bullets that target the full spectrum of tumor vulnerabilities. One of the world’s leading scientists, Andrea Califano, Wu Professor of Chemical Systems Biology at Columbia University and recipient of an NCI Outstanding Investigator Award, along with Gideon Bosker, MD, co-founded DarwinHealth to address the “precision deficit disorder” in cancer medicine. Using robotics, super-computers, and novel approaches from systems biology, their validated technology is able to identify targets that lead to more customized and effective treatments, drawing upon drugs already available in the cancer space.
In a new perspective just published in Medscape Oncology®, Drs. Califano and Bosker describe how and why new models for cancer that dig deeper than genes and mutations have the potential to unveil the next generation of cancer targets so that treatments will be more effective and precise; and produce more enduring results.
Unlike current mutation-based approaches, their strategy to make precision cancer medicine truly precise aims to pinpoint pivotal protein targets that represent the universal, structural pillars of cancer. This is poised to set the stage for more effective treatments for virtually every cancer patient. DarwinHealth’s pioneering technology is described in landmark articles authored by Califano in Nature Reviews Cancer and Nature Genetics.
In only 12 months, this young company has secured a number of key collaborations with a “Who’s Who” of Fortune 50 biopharmaceutical and healthcare-focused companies.
The real world impact of this precision-focused discovery already is being felt. Patients are or will soon be starting to enroll in a new class of clinical trials built around this methodology at Columbia University and the MD Anderson Cancer Center. As just one example, a breast cancer patient started on a combination drug regimen predicted by the methodologies used in DarwinHealth’s deeper-than-genes models has been stable for 10 months after her cancer had progressed rapidly on every other previous therapy deployed on her behalf.