One of the most frightening outcomes for a cancer patient is treatment failure. It often makes little sense to the patient and their medical team and leaves everyone uncertain about what is to come. One of the main reasons a cancer treatment may fail is because of drug-resistant cancer cells. Drug resistance is the reduction in the effectiveness of a medication to cure a disease. Cancer patients may experience drug resistance in a couple of ways. Sometimes cancers are inherently unaffected by a specific drug. It is often impossible to determine whether a cancer cell is intrinsically drug-resistant before beginning treatment. In other instances, drug resistance occurs when cancers that have been responding to a therapy suddenly start to grow again. This restart means that the cancer cells resist the effects of treatment, and the therapy in-use will need to be changed.
Thankfully, many researchers are committed to learning why some cells are inherently resistant, while others are driven to discovering what causes drug resistance where a treatment was previously working. As these researchers deep-dive into the discovery of what causes drug resistance, others continue to explore alternative modes of treatment. Identifying new ways to treat cancer provides medical professionals flexibility when drug resistance occurs, allowing them to seamlessly change the course of action.
Some of the world’s best and most dedicated researchers working to uncover the mystery behind drug-resistant cancer cells are Dr. Alice Shaw, Dr. Susan Horwitz, Dr. Amos B. Smith III, and Dr. Daniel A Haber. These National Foundation for Cancer Research-supported scientists have been working separately on projects exploring ways to successfully treat drug-resistant cancer cells. These projects are paving the way to overcoming drug resistance, creating better outcomes for all cancer patients.
Dr. Shaw has identified unique drug combinations that have halted the growth of resistant cells in tumor models. This treatment is currently available in clinical trials and will likely lead the way in the development of effective therapies.
Dr. Horwitz has spent a large proportion of her career fascinated by the way drugs interact with the human body. She is the scientist who discovered how Taxol works inside cells to halt cell division. Her passion for molecular pharmacology has her continually researching how drugs work in the body in collaboration with other passionate researchers.
Dr. Smith is currently working with Dr. Horwitz on a project to develop new drugs to overcome the drug resistance problem for triple-negative breast cancer. With his expertise in bioorganic chemistry, materials science, and natural products, he is a great contributor to the development of these drugs.
Dr. Haber and his exceptional team of researchers investigate the genetic abnormalities of cancer – from inherited mutations (with familial predisposition) to mutations that are acquired by tumors themselves – and the research aims to guide targeted drug therapies.
Though medical professionals may not ever be able to prevent drug resistance, these research projects offer a promising future of alternative treatment options. To support research projects like those of Dr. Shaw, Dr. Horwitz, Dr. Smith, and Dr. Haber, please visit the NFCR website.
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