Setting a Trap for Drug-Resistant Cancers

Kris Wood Nature Genetics figureA cancer patient and his family sit in a doctor’s office waiting to see how well he is responding to treatment. As the doctor pulls up his scans, all of the air in the room seems to vanish. When the doctor says, “Your tumor has shrunk and is almost gone!” A collective sigh of relief fills the space. 

Fast forward a couple of months. More scans, more test results. The family feels more confident this time around. The treatment had been working; maybe he’s cured! And then the doctor reveals the news: the tumor is back.

This is an all too common problem. Kris Wood, assistant professor of pharmacology and cancer biology explains: “Patients with advanced cancer often initially respond to most drugs. Their tumors may shrink or even disappear, but over time, the tumors often comes back.” When that happens, it’s known as resistance, and it’s a sign that that the disease is no longer sensitive to the initial drug treatment.