The goal of the Convergence Therapeutics theme is to expand the repertoire of therapeutic options for cancer patients, which increase efficacy while decreasing harmful side effects. Engineering and physical sciences can transform the discovery and development of more effective cancer therapies – from automation in screening, new chemical approaches to drug discovery, novel targeted therapies and drug delivery devices, through to the development of treatment guidance and delivery platforms for surgery and radiotherapy.
A common feature of most small molecule drugs is that their persistent mode of action, either permanently inhibiting or activating their targets. As a result, these drugs elicit compensatory responses leading to tolerance or resistance over time. Novel chemistry- and biological-based therapeutic approaches that complement conventional drug discovery are needed to develop milder therapies that support extended treatment regimes to manage cancer in the longer term. Traditional small molecule drug discovery for cancer therapy has a high failure rate. This is often linked to limitations of screening readouts and/or the model systems used. The development of new drug screening methodologies using more biologically relevant systems is urgently required.
As an initial focus, the Convergence Therapeutics theme has identified the area of hard to drug cancer targets as an opportunity for convergence science approaches to open new avenues for chemical tool and therapeutic development. We are consulting with cancer researchers across Imperial, the ICR and our hospital partners to identify protein families which represent well validated targets for therapeutic development but possess attributes that have so far confounded traditional small molecule drug discovery approaches.