(Overcoming Plasticity as a Targeted Intervention for MALignancy)

CHALLENGE: Cancer cell plasticity

Gradient line


Team OPTIMAL aims to understand and target the pathways involved in cancer cell plasticity to overcome therapeutic resistance. 

Team Lead
Ronald Evans (The Salk Institute for Biological Studies)
Netherlands, US, UK

The idea

OPTIMAL’s overarching aim is to determine how cell plasticity contributes to therapeutic resistance.  

To achieve this, the team hopes to explore the hypothesis that cancer co-opts the normal pathways of plasticity that are needed for cellular repair and regeneration in order to promote cancer cell plasticity and therapeutic resistance. The team aims to look at how plasticity is regulated by the tumour microenvironment (TME) over space and time; define how alterations in whole-body homeostasis influence cancer cell plasticity; and identify pathways involved in maintaining the plastic state that can be targeted to improve therapeutic outcomes.  

As part of its programme, OPTIMAL plans to utilise unique reversible genetic models to assess how oncogene-induced plasticity influences the efficacies of targeted, immuno-, radio- and chemotherapies in different cancer types.  

By developing computational models of key cancer cell plastic processes and identifying druggable pathways for intercepting cancer cell plasticity, OPTIMAL believes its work could hold the potential to promote durable clinical responses to therapy and improve outcomes for people with cancer. 

"Despite our independence we are united by our shared curiosity, collegiality, mutual respect and goal of advancing cancer diagnosis and treatment for people affected by cancer worldwide."