If you squeeze an inﬂated balloon, no matter how hard you try to contain it, parts will poke through your ﬁngers. Cancer also foils containment, developing genetic mutations that help it survive, grow and escape the immune system and many treatments.
However, this genomic ﬂexibility can also make tumors less resilient. Every time a cancer cell mutates away from its normal cousins, it adopts a less efficient, and often irreversible, mechanism to gain a temporary survival advantage. As tumors go to plans B, C and D, these adjustments inform Salk’s overall strategy: We are ﬁnding multiple ways to pop those balloons. And a deep knowledge of the fundamentals of cell biology and genomics, coupled with computational expertise, is how we do it.
Already, Salk scientists have identiﬁed several genomic weak spots that make cancer cells easier to kill. We also recently used a computational approach to discover that a current cancer therapy, which works by targeting speciﬁc molecules encoded by cancer genes, may work for thousands more patients than originally thought.