Considering cancer from an evolutionary perspective in order to better understand its vast complexity and clonal dynamics is undoubtedly opening up promising new avenues in developing more effective and precise therapies. By elucidating cancer progression through a better appreciation of how cancer interacts with the environment, evolves, and cunningly adapts, we are gaining new insights into the evolving, persistent and indestructible course of cancer.
Heterogeneity enables tumors to deal with selective pressures; mutations that drive cancer evolution reduce the potency of current treatments and promote resistance. Given the extraordinary ability of cancer cells to adapt and conspire to survive, the rapidly changing ecosystem of this disease must be better defined if precision medicine is to realize its potential. We must continue to raise the bar in more precisely predicting cancer´s next move as a strategy for reverting resistance and halting metastatic spread.
That said, there is every reason to be optimistic: we are seeing tremendous advances in next-generation sequencing, the advent of cancer avatars, liquid biopsies, the sharing of mass collections of clinical samples and data, as well as the continued drive for discovery in the basic hallmarks of cancer.
This week´s exceptional ICREA - Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies Conference organized in collaboration with the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Foundation (FIJC): Across Tumor Heterogeneity and Evolution in Cancer: from in silico studies to clinical impact, 6 -7 March, Barcelona, delivered the latest findings highlighting such interactions. In so doing, the meeting also provided a more precise picture of how cancer evolves and where we must go next. Within this context, the presentations showed progress on many fronts and outlined strategies aimed at thwarting evolving cancer populations, overcoming resistance to targeted therapies, and achieving lasting cures by more effectively incorporating intratumor heterogeneity into research.
Participants and Speakers alike were fortunate to learn from a panel of experts who tackled tumor heterogeneity, the environmental and ecological complexities of disease progression, and the major challenge of combatting resistance across a variety tumor types.
“In our ambition to better understand and ultimately outsmart intratumor heterogeneity and address the dynamics that drive resistance to the current arsenal of anti-cancer treatments, this conference provided a superb exploration into both the current challenges and opportunities arising from the latest research that will help us to preclinically and clinically dissect intra-tumor heterogeneity going forward,” observes Joan Seoane, Director of Translational Research at VHIO, ICREA Professor, and member of the meeting´s Scientific Organizing Committee.
Tracking tumor heterogeneity and evolution calls for an adaptive approach to treatment. Moreover, factoring in the measurements of tumor heterogeneity during biomarker validation will be important in increasing their predictive power and accuracy. In short, the application of evolutionary and ecological theory to tackle cancer progression, acquired resistance to therapy, and evolving suppression mechanisms, empowered by a variety of novel approaches, models and techniques discussed throughout the course of the conference, represents powerful weaponry in our determined race to take the lead over cancer´s calculated and metastatic manoeuvers.
“Only through the continued and seamless cross-talk between cancer researchers and physician scientists, as well as the exchange of critical data through scientific meetings of excellence such as this one, will we be able to collectively push the boundaries in preventing, better treating and, ultimately extinguishing cancer through the rapid translation of discovery to the clinic,” concludes Josep Tabernero, Director of VHIO, who, as invited speaker, delivered some take-homes during his closure of the conference.
On behalf of VHIO, we take this opportunity to both salute and congratulate ICREA for this educational opportunity as well as the many others that it offers including the highly-sought after ICREA Professorships.
For over 15 years, ICREA continues to do a phenomenal job in both attracting major talents to Catalonia as well as promoting the careers of its appointed Professors at international level. As testament to the excellence of research leaders it supports, ICREA appointed researchers –totalling three at VHIO; Joaquín Arribas, Joan Seoane, and Laura Soucek, have to-date collectively secured 507, 1 million euros in research funding. This undoubtedly represents a tremendous injection in the growth and stimulation of essential research of excellence.