The Encyclopedia Britannica may have published its last print edition, but a group of Dana-Farber scientists and their colleagues recently produced one of the first encyclopedias to help researchers determine which subtypes of cancer are likely to respond to current drugs.
The freely available, online encyclopedia lists hundreds of cancer subtypes – each with a unique set of genetic abnormalities that define it – along with drugs that are known to target those defects. The data, described alongside a similar catalog developed by another team of investigators, will guide researchers in designing clinical trials – improving the chances that the drug being studied will act against the particular genetic vulnerabilities within a tumor.
There have been previous efforts to do this kind of cross-matching between cancers and cancer medications, but none involved so many tumor types or took such full account of the genetic diversity of the disease.
The work will help investigators address some of the key questions of genomic medicine. “How do you know what’s intrinsically important in tumors’ biology?” says Dr. Levi Garraway of Dana-Farber and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, who participated in one of the research teams. “How do you know which patients to give these drugs to? The encyclopedia provides a valuable tool for seeking answers.”