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EJC News Focus – January 2015

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Spectacular gains through synthetic lethality

Why is BRAF inhibition effective in melanoma treatment but not in colorectal cancer? Why might inhibition of an obscure kinase – which is not mutated in cancer – make all the difference? The answer, according to René Bernards (Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam), may be found using a systematic screening process which can unearth some unexpected partnerships in the pathways driving cancer.

He and his team are taking a scientific approach to combining novel agents, he told a plenary session at ESMO 2014 (Madrid, Spain). They take an established drug and, by systematically looking at the activity of each of the 518 kinases in the human genome, can work out which other pathway needs to be inhibited for best results. The synthetic lethality in the pathways is producing dramatic results in cell cultures, mice and the clinic.

In this EJC News Focus, Bernards describes the work and its potential to Helen Saul.