Ivan Ruiz, a biology major at Haverford College, used R studio to analyze public datasets and identify candidate drugs for repurposing as cancer therapeutics.
Creating new cancer therapeutics is incredibly expensive and time consuming - it can take up to 15 years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to take a single drug from the lab to the clinic. This experience has been one that I’ll never forget - and for all the right reasons. To say I learned a lot would be an understatement. I learned how to communicate science effectively, how to grow as a leader in science, how to manage the ups and downs of a career in science, and even how to code in R. The BSRP experience is special because of how much work is put into developing the program. Every part of the experience is intentional, and therefore very effective. I especially loved the cohort and the way we all became so close with one another by the end of the summer. I’ve come out of this experience as a much more polished individual than I was beforehand, with a strong sense of understanding my place, as well as my potential, in the scientific community.One alternative is to repurpose existing drugs to treat cancer. The research process is much less expensive, and because these drugs have already passed some, if not all, FDA-approval steps, they are much faster to produce than novel drugs.While we know drugs can be repurposed, we don’t know which drugs will be effective against cancer, nor do we know which mutations these drugs target. Here, we identify two drugs - dabrafenib and LGX818, which we found to be effective in killing cancer cells with BRAF gene mutations. To reach this conclusion we analyzed drug screening data from the PRISM team, in conjunction with data on the mutation status of common cancer genes in the cell lines screened. We used RStudio to analyze this data. In our analysis we identified drugs that killed with specificity, and ran T-tests to determine whether gene mutation status was correlated with drug performance. This work is important, as it can guide future research into drugs targeting BRAF-mutant cancers, as well as provide a methodology for future drug repurposing studies.
Project: LGX818 and dabrafenib identified as candidate drugs for targeting BRAF mutant cancerous cell lines
Mentor: Lena Joesch-Cohen, PRISM, drug repurposing