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3D assays, genetic tests going mainstream and new ‘epigenetic’ drugs – ICR researchers gaze into their crystal balls


We asked some of our top researchers to take a look forward to what they expect for 2015. Here are their predictions about the upcoming year...

Posted on 20 January, 2015 by Roberto Inchingolo

The last year was an exciting one for scientific research here at The Institute of Cancer Research. We saw the results of a major clinical trial in prostate cancer, important advances in our understanding of a childhood brain cancer, a gene that can prevent breast cancer cells from becoming ‘sticky’, and much more.

We asked some of our top researchers to take a look forward to what they expect for 2015. Here are their predictions about the upcoming year...


Professor Clare Isacke, Academic Dean and Team Leader in the Division of Breast Cancer Research

“In my field, I anticipate that the major breakthroughs in 2015 will be in new strategies for targeting the tumour support system. The year will see new approaches to targeting the tumour blood supply and stromal fibroblasts which create the environment required for tumour growth.

“I also anticipate that we will see increased use of advanced three-dimensional in vitro assays in which the interactions between tumour cells and the supporting tissue can be dissected. This development will be accompanied by new generation sensors that can monitor live tumour cell metabolism, proliferation, signalling and migration in real time and be used to assess the impact of drugs in a high-throughput manner, and to accurately monitor heterogeneity of tumour cell responses.”


Professor Nazneen Rahman, Head of the Division of Genetics and Epidemiology

“2015 is set to be an exciting and productive year for cancer genetic research. It is very likely that new genes that predispose to cancer will be identified through large-scale sequencing efforts and at least some of these will have immediate clinical benefit for patients with rare cancer syndromes.

“It is also likely that more personalised therapies, targeted at specific genetic mutations in cancer tissue, will be developed and trialled. The approval of PARP inhibitors, which target BRCA mutations, is an example of this type of drug and the cancer world is excited about their implementation in 2015. Routine integration of cancer gene testing in patient care is likely to expand rapidly and will allow many more patients to access personalised care, and enable better and more widespread cancer prevention in relatives. “


Dr Udai Banerji, Team Leader in Clinical Pharmacology and Trials

“The ICR has several exciting development research projects for epigenetics-targeting drugs. I’m expecting that many of these projects will reach phase I and phase II trials in 2015.

“I am also personally interested in drugs that combine small molecules with immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy. These drugs are the logical combination of previously successful therapies. Antibody drug conjugates are also a class of drugs to keep an eye on: I believe many drugs of this type will be licensed in the upcoming year.”


Professor Mel Greaves, Director of the Centre for Evolution and Cancer

“The only thing that I can, with any confidence, predict about the future is that it will happen. As far as the evolutionary biology of cancer is concerned I anticipate that there will be important advances, in both model systems and patients, in slowing down the pace of cancer clone evolution via modifications to the tumour microenvironment.”

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