For most Americans, it is nearly impossible not to know someone whose family has been affected by cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, there will be an expected 1.7 million cases of cancer diagnosed in the United States alone in 2016. While different forms of cancer treatments exist, there are many cases in which the body begins to resist these forms of therapy, making a critical disease considerably harder to treat. Researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) offer hope for the future with an invention that will help provide insight into resistance to cancer therapy, and help select the best possible cancer treatment methods for individual patients.
“Our technology mines the large-scale molecular database of cancer patients to identify which genes are responsible for the resistance to specific cancer therapies,” said Dr. Joo Sang Lee, a research associate in UMD's Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (CBCB), a multidisciplinary center within the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, dedicated to research on questions arising from the genome revolution. “Based on such a network-based approach, we identify the resistance-determining genes, and find a way to concomitantly target these genes to counteract resistance. In this way, our technology provides a promising, novel way to mitigate resistance to cancer therapies."
UMD CBCB postdoctoral researchers Dr. Avinash Das Sahu and Dr. Joo Sang Lee, and CBCB faculty member Dr. Eytan Ruppin, have developed this technology.
The invention relies upon the analysis of the fast growing body of publicly available patient data. “Our approach is completely different from the existing ones in that we directly analyze the whole genome patient data and recommend the therapies based on the understanding of genome-wide genetic interaction network,” said Lee. “Our technology identifies genetic factors that determine emergence of the resistance and identify specific cancer vulnerabilities that can then be targeted to mitigate resistance.”
This exciting innovation spells change for the future of cancer treatment and the researchers hope that this new technology will have an enormous impact on the lives of cancer patients.
“We want to see cancer patients have better quality of life through our technology. We have started communications with pharmaceutical companies, and hope to take the lead to commercialize the technology,” said Lee.
The invention was nominated by UMD’s Office of Technology Commercialization for the Invention of the Year award in the Information Sciences category. Winners were announced at the Celebration of Innovation and Partnerships on May 9th as part of the University of Maryland’s “30 Days of EnTERPreneurship.”
To learn more about the University of Maryland’s “30 Days of EnTERPreneurship,” visit: http://www.umd.edu/30Days/.
May 6, 2016