Intended for healthcare professionals


Drug resistance: the next target for cancer treatment

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 16 May 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l2228
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. London

Can a new research institute usher in a new era of cancer management? Nigel Hawkes investigates

Cancer will be conquered only by outwitting its ability to evolve more rapidly than the drugs treating it, the Institute of Cancer Research has decided.

It has launched a new programme to tackle what its chief executive, Paul Workman, calls “the biggest challenge in cancer biology”—controlling the resistance to chemotherapy driven by darwinian selection.

“Many patients respond well to drugs, but months or years later tumours start to grow again,” he told a briefing at the Science Media Centre in London on 15 May. “Most of the cancer cells may be susceptible to the drug, but a small number are resistant. The vast majority of cancer deaths are the result of these cells forming new tumours resistant to the drugs.”

The perception is not new, he conceded, but has come into full focus only with the development of new techniques …

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