Precision Science Initiative for Brain Cancer
Chirag Patil M.D.
One mutation-one drug strategy has not worked for brain cancer and for the most part other complex solid cancers. It seems clear that one of the main factors behind this repeated failure is a sort of “tunnel vision” – a fixation on blocking only one or two deregulated or mutated cancer signaling pathways. Due to the complexities of such a massive task, a more holistic picture of all the relevant cancer signaling pathways has not yet been built. The Cedars-Sinai Precision Medicine Initiative for Brain Cancer is looking to change this. Our research study currently focuses on patients with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most aggressive and common type of brain cancer. Unfortunately, today’s standard-of-care which includes surgical removal, radiation therapy and chemotherapy has only modest benefits with patients living on average 15 months after diagnosis.
Our precision science strategy has only been possible through an intense collaboration between academia and industry. We have brought together individuals with diverse expertise in cancer biology, software engineering, mathematics and pharmacology to holistically model most of the known cancer cell-signaling pathways. Think of the tumor as the Death Star from “Star Wars.” To destroy it you cannot mount an attack on one small, perceived weakness on its surface (i.e., a single mutation on a cancer cell). Rather, you need a multitude of talented spies that infiltrate and bring back the blueprint of the entire complex architecture of the Death Star. Only then, is a coordinated and precise attack possible.
We are working hard to make sure this isn’t a “Star Wars” fantasy. Good progress has been made in the last 6 months. We are currently evaluating the first 5 patient samples with this precision medicine strategy and will have data on almost 25 brain cancer patients in less than 6 months. An innovative randomized clinical trial is being developed, not to compare one drug to another, but rather compare our Precision Medicine Treatment Strategy to a Standard Strategy. Of course, I am very happy to say that we are not the only forward-thinking program of this kind. At University of Florida, Dr. Christopher Cogle has already started a clinical trial that is assessing the merit of this precision medicine strategy in patients with a different cancer, multiple myeloma. Personalized cancer care powered by precision science may seem futuristic, but we’re showing that the future can be now.