At the 2018 AACR annual meeting, one of the noteworthy talks given to the 22,000+ attendees in Chicago was a plenary lecture by Charles Swanton from the Francis Crick Institute in London. He’s a Professor of Personalized Cancer Medicine at University College London and chief clinician for Cancer Research UK (CRUK).

Professor Swanton is the leader of a landmark clinical study, TRACERx (TRAcking Cancer Evolution through therapy (Rx)) study, which involves analyzing how cancers and in particular, lung and renal cancers, evolve over time.

There’s a lot of heavy science and jargon inherent in this niche that often frightens off people, but that need not always be the case.

What is fascinating, though, is the very idea that tracking the development of early stage cancers might teach us new insights and lessons about alternative approaches to oncology R&D.

We have all seen the limitations of chemotherapy, targeted therapies and even immune checkpoint blockade, so what other approaches can be considered that link back to the biology of the disease and how it evolves over time?

What we wanted to achieve here was a clear and elegant story about what Prof Swanton and his colleagues are doing, as well as a simple grounding on the basics of disease progression and how that can translate clinically into new therapeutics that might make a real difference to the lives of people with cancer.

It’s a fascinating story and may well be one of the most underappreciated recent developments in cancer research…

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