NIH director highlights Sanford Burnham Prebys and National Cancer Institute project to improve precision oncology

| Written by Greg Calhoun
Big data technology and data science illustration
Credit: Donny Bliss/NIH, NicoElNino/Adobe Stock

The NIH director’s blog features a recent publication detailing the study of a new AI tool that may be able to match cancer drugs more precisely to patients.

Monica M. Bertagnolli, M.D., director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), highlighted a collaboration between scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) on the NIH director’s blog. Bertagnoli noted advances that have been made in precision oncology approaches using a growing array of tests to uncover molecular or genetic profiles of tumors that can help guide treatments. She also recognizes that much more research is needed to realize the full potential of precision oncology.  

Sanju Sinha, Ph.D., headshot
Sanju Sinha, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Cancer Molecular Therapeutics Program at Sanford Burnham Prebys.

The spotlighted Nature Cancer study demonstrates the potential to better predict how patients will respond to cancer drugs by using a new AI tool to analyze the sequences of the RNA within each cell of a tumor sample. Current precision oncology methods take an average of the DNA and RNA in all the cells in a tumor sample, which the research team hypothesized could hide certain subpopulations of cells—known as clones—that are more resistant to specific drugs.  

Bertagnoli said, “Interestingly, their research shows that having just one clone in a tumor that is resistant to a particular drug is enough to thwart a response to that drug. As a result, the clone with the worst response in a tumor will best explain a person’s overall treatment response.” 

More of Bertagnoli’s thoughts on this collaboration between scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys and the NCI are available on the NIH director’s blog

Sanju Sinha, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Cancer Molecular Therapeutics Program at Sanford Burnham Prebys, is the first author on the featured study. 

Related Posts