CTD2 bioinformaticians at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center developed an analysis tool called Statius to identify potential therapeutics to target patient-specific vulnerabilities. In tumors with certain homozygous deletions, loss of a non-essential gene (e.g. a member of a gene family which provides functional redundancy) may occur and cause cancer cells to become dependent on a second gene with a similar function. Because of this dependency, the cancer viability is selectively vulnerable to loss of the second gene, a concept known as synthetic lethality. Therapeutically targeting the second gene may kill cancer cells without harming non-cancer cells.
The investigators used Statius to mine data from 16 cancer studies for synthetic lethal relationships in metabolic pathway genes. 4104 total vulnerabilities were identified, and 44% of these may potentially be targeted using drugs already approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The authors suggest the systematic approach and treatments predicted by Statius may provide a basis for future precision medicine clinical trials. The results are published in Bioinformatics.