Cancer kills almost 10 million people globally every year, making it a leading cause of death. Some 90 % of these deaths occur in people who initially responded well to treatment, but whose cancer subsequently became resistant to treatment. The source of this drug resistance lies in rare cancer cells called ‘drug tolerant persister’ cells, or DTPs. Studies show that DTPs survive drug treatments by altering the activity of certain genes. However, the underlying mechanisms behind cancer drug resistance are poorly understood and it is currently difficult to predict, prevent and treat.
The aim of PERSIST-SEQ is to shed new light on the mechanisms behind treatment resistance. To do this, they will develop a standardised approach to studying and sequencing the genetic code of individual cancer cells before, during and after treatment. In total, the project plans to use state-of-the-art technology to characterise 5 million cells and will mainly focus on lung, colorectal and breast cancer.
Ultimately, the project will dramatically add to our understanding of the underlying causes of treatment resistance in cancer, and make it easier for researchers to develop smarter treatment strategies that will better treat cancer and prevent resistance.