National Growth Fund for better cancer treatment with AI: Oncode-PACT*

News - 14 April 2022 - Communication

The National Growth Fund invests 325 million euro in the Oncode-PACT* plan to accelerate the preclinical development process of cancer drugs. The consortium, which also includes Professor of Bioinformatics Marcel Reinders, will use this funding to fast develop valuable candidate cancer drugs as well as new methods to get these new drugs to the patients for whom they are most effective. This will improve the quality of life of cancer patients while strengthening the future economic earning capacity of the Netherlands. Within the consortium, an important role is reserved for the enabling power of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

A tailor-made medicine, thanks to AI

Every patient is unique, especially one with a malignant tumour. This means that every tumour reacts differently to a medicine. It is up to the doctor to determine which drug best fits a patient's profile, a process that requires a lot of expertise and above all time. AI can play an important supporting role in this process, by quickly analysing tumours and also calculating which drugs have the best chance of success.

"As a technical university, we can use our AI knowledge to characterise the enormously complex biological processes that lead to tumours. An exciting challenge with which we can contribute to making drug selection more personal," adds Marcel Reinders, who will lead the project within the faculty of EWI.

Patients in the lab

The medical need is urgent, because cancer remains the number one cause of death in our country. Alain Kummer, Managing Director Oncode Institute and Chairman of Oncode-PACT, explains: “Oncode-PACT places the patient at the center of the entire drug development chain. In the current situation, the preclinical development process is still insufficiently connected with the clinical practice, and we focus on the patient too late in the drug development process. By deploying patient data and tissues from patients early in the development process – for example organoid technology and artificial intelligence – it is possible to assess whether a potential drug could be effective and safe much earlier in the process than is currently possible, and with greater certainty.”

The way of working within Oncode-PACT ensures that patients receive more viable treatments as early as possible. Thanks to this new way of drug development, it will be possible in the future to offer tailor-made treatment at a much earlier stage of a patient’s disease and make a difference that way.