Researchers Make a Breakthrough Concerning Cancers Resistant to Treatment

Researchers from Monash University and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC, New York) have discovered why some cancers, especially lung cancer and melanoma, are able to develop deadly resistances so quickly to targeted therapies.

Cancers Resistant to Treatments

Fitness Threshold Model

Lung cancer and melanoma are some of the hardest cancers to treat because of their capacity to alter their genetics, developing resistance to targeted therapies. In a paper published in Nature Medicine, researchers used animal models from tumors derived from patients and single-cell genomics to develop a theoretical model of resistance, called “fitness threshold model.” It explains why and how resistance to therapy occurs in these cancers, as well as identified types of therapies to prevent this process from occurring.

How Cancers Grow Back

The researchers have demonstrated that solid tumors like melanoma and lung cancers can grow back shortly after therapy. However, when they do grow back they are made of genetically diverse sub-groups of malignant cells and all of these are resistant to treatment. This genetic diversity is how the cancers can adapt to the treatment and resist it.


The research team’s fitness threshold model links the effect of a drug with the variety of resistance-causing alterations in DNA. These findings help oncologists understand the way that drugs are administered during therapy can have a critical impact on the response to treatment.

Intermittent drug administration enables simultaneous delivery of various targeted therapies while maintaining a lower toxicity level. The fitness threshold model explains how other resistance-causing alterations may develop during targeted therapy. Researchers can now develop new therapeutic designs to treat patients more effectively going forward.

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