University of Virginia oncologists have designed a process to give cancer patients customized treatment solutions.
For achieving their object, the researchers used a panel of 60 diverse, human cancer cells lines from the National Cancer Institute (NCI-60), which were previously used to screen more than 100,000 chemical compounds for their anticancer activity.
The previous study, however, did not include all important cancer types—such as certain bladder cancers, lymphomas, and small cell lung cancers.
Dr. Dan Theodorescu, a University of Virginia oncologist and cancer biologist, and Dr. Jae Lee, a computational biologist and bioinformatics statistician, set out to investigate whether the drug sensitivity data of the 60 cancer cell lines could be extrapolated into useful information on other tumours or cancer cell lines.
They found that their "co-expression extrapolation (COXEN) system" could be used to accurately predict drug sensitivity for bladder cancer cell lines to two common chemotherapies, cisplatin and paclitaxel.
"Even though this NCI cell set wasn't an exhaustive encyclopaedia of cancer cells, we found we could use the available data to draw conclusions about other cell types we were exploring. The algorithm is a Rosetta stone for translating from the NCI-studied drugs to any other cell line or human tumour," says Dr. Theodorescu, senior author of the study.
"We believe we have found an effective way to personalize cancer therapy," he adds.
The researchers say that the most exciting aspect of their study is that besides predicting patient responses to therapy, the COXEN algorithm can also be used to discover effective compounds in any form of cancer.
Since the NCI-60 set of cells has been used to screen thousands of chemically defined compounds and natural extracts for anticancer activity, "we were able to make significant predictions about what compounds might work on real patients who might have other types of cancer," Theodorescu said.
The researchers used the COXEN to screen 45,545 compounds, and identified several new compounds that have activity against human bladder cancer.
Dr. Theodorescu is planning to conduct clinical trials for the new compounds against bladder cancer. The clinical trial will examine patients with a variety of cancers receiving COXEN personalized, second-line drug combinations to beat their cancers, using FDA-approved agents.
The new findings have been published online in the Proceeedings of the National Academy of Sciences.