Resistance to cancer treatments is a huge problem that costs lives. Effectively combining the right drugs could overcome resistance, and expand treatment options for cancer patients. However, there are hundreds of thousands of potential drug combinations, and it is hard to tell which ones will be effective. Testing all of these in patients is neither ethical nor practical until there is more evidence identifying either their effectiveness, or the patient groups that would benefit the most.
In this new publication, researchers tested 2025 drug combinations in breast, colon, or pancreatic cancer cell lines (see image). They extensively analyzed variables within these 125 cell lines in response to the drugs, resulting in the world’s largest resource of its kind. This freely available information is expected to help researchers predict which combination therapies are worth investigating (pre)clinically.
“This work demonstrates that by using model systems to select combinations of drugs, the path from testing a particular drug combination to clinical implementation can be shortened significantly,” says group leader Lodewyk Wessels from the Netherlands Cancer Institute and Oncode Institute. He was closely involved in the analysis. “This is illustrated by our identification and validation of the combination of the drugs irinotecan and rabusertib, which holds the promise of deeper and more durable clinical response in particular types of colon cancer.”