Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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2020 Koch Institute Image Awards Signature of Sensitivity

Testing how different genetic alterations in cancer affect response to treatment

15 May 2020

Signature of Sensitivity

When it comes to treating cancer, one size doesn’t fit all. Each patient’s disease is a genetic pick-and-mix of alterations and mutations that affect how it behaves and whether it's resistant or sensitive to various types of chemotherapy. To find out more about how genetic variations within tumours influence treatment, researchers have been testing common chemotherapy drugs on more than 200 genetically distinct cancer cell lines growing in the lab. Each column in the grid represents one cell line, tested with 21 different drugs – one for each row. Blue and green highlight sensitive cells that are easily killed, while red and pink patches carry genetic alterations making them resistant to that particular treatment. By combining all this data together, scientists can generate a set of ‘signatures’ that can be used to figure out how different drugs work and identify treatments that are likely to be effective for individual patients.

Written by Kat Arney

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