The Institute of Cancer Research has launched the world’s first ‘Darwinian’ cancer drug programme, aiming to deliver step change in cancer treatment.

The programme is specially designed to tackle cancer’s lethal ability to evolve resistance to treatment, and is to be launched in a £75 million state-of-the-art global centre of expertise in anti-evolution therapies in London.

Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) say they aim to harness evolutionary science within the new Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery to ‘herd’ cancers with anti-evolution drugs and combinations.

More cancer patients are living longer and with fewer side effects, but “unfortunately, we’re also seeing that cancer can become resistant very quickly to new drugs – and this is the greatest challenge we face”, says Dr Olivia Rossanese, the newly appointed head of biology in the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery.

She continued, “Within the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery, we plan to deliver a drug discovery programme that is wholly focused on meeting the challenge of cancer evolution and drug resistance through completely new ways of attacking the disease.

“This ‘Darwinian’ approach to drug discovery gives us the best chance yet of defeating cancer, because we will be able to predict what cancer is going to do next and get one step ahead.

The ICR is seeking a further £15 million from philanthropic donations to complete the new building and equip it with state-of-the-art instruments and computational technologies. The building will house a series of pioneering projects, including the use of AI and advanced maths to ‘herd’ cancer like livestock so it is forced to adapt to one treatment by developing weaknesses against others.