Damon Runyon News

January 27, 2017

By Arvin C. Dar, PhD, Damon Runyon Innovator, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation recently asked some of our current award recipients how cancer will be prevented, diagnosed, and/or treated differently in the future. What can a future cancer patient, say 10-20 years from now, expect to experience? Their responses were fascinating, and over the next few months we will share their visions for the future on this blog.

“Today’s drug discovery paradigm seems unsustainable to me: 90-95% of drug candidates that enter clinical trials will fail. And most fail because of lack of efficacy.  The cost of these failures for our patients and society in general is enormous.

What’s amazing is that these numbers haven’t really changed for the past several decades. But I think a change in these numbers is on the immediate horizon and I believe the future cancer patient can expect more, and better, options for therapy. One area that I’m very excited about, and which I think will have an immediate impact, are new technologies to model cancer. In particular, I am most excited about patient-derived models. In addition to providing a better understanding of cancer, I think these models will greatly impact drug discovery and development in that we will better predict therapies in our laboratory experiments that should be successful in the clinic. There have been some really amazing papers recently on patient derived cell lines and mouse models that have been used to understand why certain patients respond to a given therapy and why others do not, or why some patients become resistant to a drug while others show remarkable responses.

These are just a few examples. I think an extension of this work, which I believe has gained a great deal of momentum, is to use patient derived models to achieve a major goal of cancer at the moment of developing new and innovative medicines. I think the result of these efforts will be a shift in our drug discovery success rates, which should not only provide more options for our patients and caregivers, but could also reduce the overall cost of the enterprise and thereby lifesaving medicines.”