Colorectal cancer is the third most prevalent malignancy in men and second most common in women. It is the 4th most common cause of cancer mortality worldwide. The 5 year survival rate of metastatic cancer ranges between 30-50%. With the aging of the population, the incidence of colorectal cancer and other carcinomas is expected to increase. The drugs developed as part of the program are designed to reduce the mortality associated with colorectal cancer (and potentially other cancers) and extend people lives.
While some new treatments have been advanced in colorectal cancer, many have failed clinical testing; as a result metastatic colorectal cancer is still largely incurable. The high failure rate in cancer drug research has been linked to the poor predictive capacity of drug screening models for cancer and the inability to select the right patients for treatment. The new drug being developed within suppresSTEM will be screened on a large panel of patient material (organoids) and its effectiveness will be linked to a particular genetic profile. Using this screening technology may permit far greater accuracy in predicting which treatment/drug will be beneficial to which patient, in other words it could be used to select the patients with the greatest chance of response to treatment using already available gene typing diagnostics. This would result in significant extension of quality of life years for colorectal cancer patients, but also would avoid unnecessary treatment. In addition once developed both the organoid technique and the drug are expected to be applicable for other types of cancer as well.
Drugs for circulating tumors have been twice as successful in reaching the market as those for solid tumors. One contributory factor may be that during drug discovery, blood tumor cells can be easily sampled by drawing blood or bone marrow and used to screen for active compounds; drug development for solid tumors does not have that benefit. The use of patient organoids both in drug screening and potentially as a diagnostic tool would enable drugs to be selected based on activity against patient tumors before the expensive and time consuming process of drug development begins. Preclinical screening will eliminate poor drugs faster and facilitate identification of drugs missed by conventional screening methods. Since the estimated cost of bringing a single new drug are huge more relevant information from preclinical drug discovery that is translated into a higher success rate during clinical development of drug candidates for the treatment of solid tumors would have substantial financial and societal consequences. The selective use of drugs by prescreening on patients material will be required to make highly targeted treatment of cancer affordable for the European healthcare systems. Finally the use of human tissue based screening systems is not only more relevant for therapeutic drug development but it will reduce the dependency on animal testing which is an important objective of the European commission.