Scientists identify cancer drug targets

SCIENTISTS have identified hundreds of opportunities for new drugs to precisely kill cancer cells but leave healthy tissue unharmed.

Researchers disrupted every gene in over 30 types of cancer to discover thousands of key genes essential for the survival of the disease.

In one of the largest studies of its kind, the team, from Britain’s Wellcome Sanger Institute, found 600 genes that show promise of leading into effective treatments.


Researchers have now moved closer to developing precision treatments without the toxic side-effects of current options such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, according to the study.

The work was carried out using the Crispr/Cas9 gene editing tool that has revolutionised genetics research.

The findings were published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

One potential target gene is Werner syndrome RecQ helicase (WRN).

Researchers found it was essential for keeping alive some of the most unstable cancers but there are no drugs currently to target it.

Dr Kosuke Yusa, co-lead author, who is now based at Kyoto University in Japan, said: “Crispr is an incredibly powerful tool that enables us to do science at a scale and with a precision that we couldn’t do five years ago.

“With Crispr we have discovered a very exciting opportunity to develop new drugs targeting cancers.”

Dr Mathew Garnet, also co-lead author, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: “The Cancer Dependency Map is a huge effort to identify all the weaknesses that exist in different cancers so we can use this information to empower the next generation of precision cancer treatments.

“Ultimately we hope this impacts on the way we treat patients, so many more patients get effective therapies.”

It typically costs more than $US1 billion ($A1.4 billion) to develop a single cancer drug, with around 90 per cent of drugs failing during development, the Wellcome Sanger institute said.

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