Top scientists in the UK have launched a drug discovery program designed to stop cancer cells becoming resistant to treatment.
For the next 10 years, scientists from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London, will be focusing on developing a new cancer drug to fight cancer’s drug resistance.
Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy are not always effective because the cancer cells adapt to the treatments and eventually, the cancer patients succumb.
“Cancer’s ability to adapt, evolve and become drug-resistant was the cause of the vast majority of deaths from the disease and the biggest challenge we face in overcoming it,” the chief executive of IRC, Prof Paul Workman, said.
Therefore, scientists will be using a combination of drugs and artificial intelligence to determine and control the behaviour of those cancer cells so that patients can respond to treatments more effectively.
“Researchers are already working on new drugs designed to stop a type of protein molecule called Apobec, which is part of the immune system hijacked by more than half of cancer types to speed up the evolution of drug resistance,” the IRC said on its website.
About Ksh9.7 billion has already been invested to make the drugs, Ksh1.9 billion more will be needed for its new Centre for Drug Discovery at its campus in Sutton, south London. The Drug Discovery center is expected to bring together almost 300 scientists from different fields.
Once the new drug is tested in laboratories and clinical trials, it will be made available to cancer patients, a process that can take up to 10 years.
When they pass the mark, the new drugs will make cancer “manageable” and “more often curable”.
The cancer situation in Kenya
The World Health Organization data estimates that cancer cases have shot to 18. 1 million worldwide. Last year, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recorded 9.6 million deaths worldwide.
In Kenya, cancer experts have cited oesophagus and stomach cancers as the deadliest types. According to IARC, 4,354 Kenyans succumb to oesophagus cancer every year. Most of these deaths occur due to late detection and inadequate funds to cater for specialized care as the medication is very expensive.