An advance in personalized medicine is helping cancer patients receive targeted treatments with better results.
Professor Yuval Shaked, head of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology Integrated Cancer Center, recently published groundbreaking discoveries related to cancer therapy resistance in Nature Reviews Cancer.
“Current modern immunotherapy has revolutionized cancer care. However, despite considerable advances in cancer treatment, most patients do not respond to therapy at all or from a particular stage,” Shaked explained. “Without the ability to predict the effectiveness of treatment, many suffer from disease recurrence or spread, which sometimes erupts with even greater violence. Over the years, many have investigated and are still investigating the effect of therapy on the tumor itself, but few have analyzed the effect of the therapy on the patient.”
Resistance to anti-cancer therapies is a common problem. Initial cancer treatment often seems successful, however, over timethe patient develops resistance to the treatment, which manifests in tumor regrowth or the illness spreading.
Until Shaked’s research, studies over the past 10 years focused on tumor-related changes as the source for the resistance. Only 20-30 percent of patients respond to immunotherapy to fight cancer, according to the professor.
Shaked and his team’s finding bring a paradigm shift in understanding cancer recurrence and treatments. Their current findings suggest that the patient’s body induces local and systemic responses causing the resurgence of the illness and its progression.
The research encourages oncologists to look at the factors that cause the body to “protect” itself from cancer treatment.
“We are not saying that existing treatments are not good,” emphasized Shaked. “They just aren’t suitable for everyone. Each treatment triggers a host response, and when this response exceeds the therapy effect, we receive ineffective treatment. For the therapy to be effective at the specific host level, it is important to predict the same counter-response and try to block it.”
The article provides steps to prevent treatment resistance by using personalized (precision) medicine techniques that focus on individual needs, rather than on general treatment methods.
The professor is the founder and chief scientific adviser of ONCOHOST which recently opened a state-of-the-art proteomics laboratory to analyze how patients respond to treatments The Israeli based lab is one of only a few worldwide.
By analyzing more than 1,000 proteins using a very low volume of plasma, scientists can predict the response a patient will have to treatment and examine the biological processes and key proteins that are associated with a lack of response to treatment.
“The combination of the new lab, together with our PROphet platform [Predicting Responsiveness in Oncology Patients based on Host response Evaluation during Treatment], provides tremendous value and hope for the global oncology community,” Shaked said. “There is a pressing need to advance the development of novel therapeutic strategies and rationally-based combination therapies. These capabilities come at the ideal time to address the current challenges of immunotherapy for cancer.”
Shaked conclude, “This is a huge revolution that we must advance not only in research but also in the commercialization of research into actual therapies. Only then can we contribute to saving lives.”