Prof. Diether Lambrechts (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology) has been awarded a Proof of Concept grant by the European Research Council. With this grant, he will be able to explore the use of DNA methylation patterns detectable in tumor DNA that circulates in the blood as predictive marker for resistance against cancer treatments.
Proof of Concept grants are awarded to previous ERC grantees whose previous ERC funded research has identified new and innovative ways to take science and its translation forward. These grants are worth 150 000 euro and are used to tie novel scientific ideas and concepts to potential applications for societal benefits.
Predicting cancer resistance
Tumors have a disturbed blood vessel network. Making that network normal again is one of the strategies employed in the fight against cancer. However, this strategy doesn’t always work. Some patients are resistant to it. Is there a reliable way to predict who will be resistant to drugs affecting blood vessel formation?
Prof. Diether Lambrechts and his team think there is. In research supported by his earlier ERC Consolidator Grant ‘CHAMELEON’ and recently published in Nature Medicine (2018), they discovered how changes in patterns of how certain molecules bind to DNA, a process known as methylation, underlie resistance to cancer treatments that prevent new tumor blood vessels from forming. Armed with this knowledge, the team will now validate how these DNA methylation patterns in the blood-circulating tumor DNA of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) can be used to predict an early response to cancer treatment by using a DNA sequencing test they developed, known as the ‘INITIATOR’ test.
“As always, my lab aspires to tackle important questions in cancer research by translating genome-scale data sets into clinically applicable knowledge. With this readily accessible blood-based ‘INITIATOR’ test, we aim to overcome many of the issues that are currently associated with anti-angiogenic drugs. Clinical application of this test will transform the way in which mCRC patients are treated,” Prof. Lambrechts added.