1. TECHNOLOGICAL BREAKTHROUGH:

Dr. Carla Grandori discusses the inspiration behind Cure First's approach.

Remember when looking for information meant a trip to the library where you would search the card catalogue, scribble down call numbers, then comb the stacks for books that might or might not be there, and which might or might not be helpful? Now you can go to the Internet and have instant access to hundreds of sites concerning your questions.

High Throughput Screening has made the same kind of leap possible in cancer research.  Drug experiments on cancer cells that once had to be done by hand, testing one cell at a time, can now be run in blocks of 1,500, with results that are faster and more reliable than ever before. The scientific community hasn’t even begun to realize the potential this new technology brings. But we have.

2. ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTION:

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Much of the current work being done on the genetics of cancer focuses on sequencing, i.e. identifying genes that are mutated in cancer cells.  But these genes are few and far between and are often not easily blocked or neutralized so identifying them rarely brings us closer to finding a cure. In addition, many mutations in cancer DNA are incidental and do not cause disease.

Identifying them rarely brings us closer to finding a cure. We have found that many of the genes which a cancer needs to survive are not mutated, they just function differently in the cancer cells. Genes that are relatively unimportant for normal cells are, in cancer cells, often recruited by the cancer to do something new.

In sum, most potential targets can’t be found by sequencing DNA and asking, “Which genes are different?”  We have to consider another question: “Which genes keep the cancer alive?”

That’s the question we ask—thousands of genes at a time.

Link to publications.

3. TARGETED THERAPY:

We now have the ability to identify and develop therapies that exploit a given cancer’s inherent weaknesses. We test a cancer’s DNA, one gene at a time, and find out which genes are crucial for cancer cells to thrive. By blocking and attacking those genes selectively, we can target tumor cells and leave normal cells [relatively] unharmed. By focusing on which genes the cancer relies on to thrive, the number of potential gene targets is much larger than originally thought. There are thousands of genes to test, but with our technology that’s no longer an obstacle.

 

4. PERSONALIZED MEDICINE:

We are capable of scanning live tumor samples against known targeted therapies to determine the best available treatments for an individual patient. However, that’s only the beginning. Once we have identified gene targets for a wide spectrum of cancers and developed selective treatments for those genes, cancer treatment will look nothing like the “slash and burn” approach we have used for the last 50 years.

One day, patients will come to their doctors, full of fear and uncertainty, and this is what they might hear: “I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that you have cancer. The good news is that your biopsy is at the lab right now being screened against one hundred targeted therapies that are known to be effective in cancers like yours. In a few days we’ll know which medicines will be the most potent against your tumor and we can design a combination of them that will offer the best possible treatment. The side effects should be minimal and the chance of cure is good. We’re going to beat this thing.”

The future is closer than you think—and that's where Cure First is headed.

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