Broad Institute and IBM Begin Cancer Drug Resistance Research

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The Broad Institute and IBM Watson Health will collaborate on a $50 million project to study how cancers become resistant to therapies.

On Nov. 10, 2016, the Broad Institute and IBM Watson Health announced the start of a research initiative aimed at discovering the basis of cancer drug resistance. The research will last for five years and will cost $50 million. The project will study drug-resistant tumors in order to better understand how cancers become resistant to therapies. After the project is completed, the data will be available to the scientific community and researchers worldwide, the organizations noted in a statement.

Cancers become drug resistant because of mutations, and the cause of this resistance is not fully understood. To help better understand this resistance, the Broad Institute will generate tumor genome sequence data from patients who initially responded to treatment but then became drug resistant. Broad will use genome-editing methods to conduct large-scale cancer drug resistance studies to identify tumor vulnerabilities. Scientists at IBM will use Watson, IBM’s cloud-based data analytics system, to identify genomic patterns that may help researchers predict drug sensitivity and resistance.

“Currently, cancer researchers have access to genomic information from only a few hundred drug-resistant cancers samples. In addition to the goals of this specific study, IBM and Broad are committed to advancing cancer research by sharing the data from thousands of tumor samples with the scientific community to accelerate progress everywhere against cancer,” said Todd Golub, MD, chief scientific officer and founder of the cancer program at the Broad Institute. “What we and many others will learn with this information will have important implications for the future of cancer precision medicine and cancer diagnostics.”