What is Drug Resistance?
Sometimes cancers are inherently unaffected by a specific drug and sometimes drug resistance occurs when cancers that have been responding to a therapy suddenly begin to grow again. In that latter case, the cancer cells resist the effects of treatment and the therapy being used will need to be changed.
Research is underway to investigate ways of reducing or preventing cancer drug resistance.
Related NFCR Research
Dr. Wei Zhang’s research addresses the variability in cellular properties, within and across cancer types, which often leads to treatment resistance and poor survival in patients. For example, in non-small lung cancer (NSCLC) patients, his team identified a cell population that contributes to drug resistance. Potential therapy to change these cells offers great promise to enhance treatment approaches for patients.
Dr. Daniel Haber believes the circulating tumor cells (CTCs) shed from a primary and metastatic tumor sites and travel through the bloodstream, hold the key to predicting cancer treatment response, resistance and cancer relapse. The CTC-iChip device developed by his team captures the few CTCs among millions of healthy blood cells in a patient’s blood sample. With culturing of the CTCs to increase their numbers, genetic testing and other tests can be conducted on the cells. DNA mutations can be identified that may be causing the cancer cell’s resistance to treatment. Doctors may quickly determine this needed information and make critical decisions on changes in treatment for their patients that can save their life.
He has further developed an approach to characterize the genes in the CTCs through a light (fluorescent) analysis and the signal can be an indicator of response to treatment and outcomes for patients. This approach may guide doctors to make changes in patient’s treatment sooner than standard methods, saving patient’s precious time.
Dr. Susan Horwitz, a molecular pharmacologist who studies how drugs work in the body, discovered how the drug, Taxol, works inside cells to halt cell division. Millions of cancer patients have been treated with Taxol. NFCR’s long-term funding for her research helped to further our understanding of the resistance problem that patients develop with Taxol. NFCR funded a collaboration between Dr. Horwitz and chemist, Dr. Amos B. Smith, III, to develop new drugs similar to Taxol that may overcome the drug resistance problem experienced by patients with triple negative breast cancer, and lung, ovarian, and pancreatic cancer.