Researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research are poised to outsmart cancer with the world’s first anti-evolution 'Darwinian' drug discovery programme based in Sutton.

Since 2005 alone, scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research, London (ICR) – a charity and world-leading research institution - have discovered 20 drug candidates.

They’ve seen the drug abiraterone approved, which has extended the lives of hundreds of thousands of men with prostate cancer.

However, while progress in developing targeted treatments now allows many patients to live longer with fewer drug-related side effects, some cancer cells evolve and adapt to survive and resist treatment.

To facilitate an ambitious research programme to tackle this challenge, the ICR is constructing a state-of-the-art facility on Cotswold Road. The Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery will bring together drug discovery and evolutionary scientists to explore how to use cancer’s survival instinct against itself to improve cure rates.

The £75 million building will house a series of pioneering projects, focusing on overcoming or redirecting the cancer evolution process, to deliver long-term control and effective cures, just as comparable approaches have achieved with HIV.

Here the ICR will overcome cancer drug resistance in innovative new ways, creating a new generation of treatments that will make a difference to millions of people with cancer.

Christine O’Connell, 47, was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2012.

After undergoing intensive treatment, she thought cancer was well and truly behind her - until a scan revealed a secondary tumour in her brain. She has now started a targeted treatment called palbociclib to keep the disease at bay.

The drug works by blocking two proteins, CDK4 and CDK6, which help cancer cells divide. It was assessed in clinical trials which the ICR helped lead.

Now, thanks to palbociclib, which avoids many of the side-effects of traditional chemotherapy, Christine is able to keep up her passion, cycling:

“I’ve seen first-hand the difference a targeted treatment can make: my cancer is currently stable. I take my pill every morning, and I get on with my life.

“I still cycle 3-4 times a week, which I could never have done had I been on conventional therapy. This year I did the Etape du Tour, an amateur event that follows the route of one of the stages of the Tour de France, completed the 365km ride from Manchester to London in a day, as well as a 600km ride from Paris to Amsterdam. I’m not stopping there though!

“Palbociclib allows me to live a good life with cancer – and I want all cancer patients to have this hope and optimism for the future.”

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