A major challenge in current cancer research is the translation of promising preclinical data on more specific dynamic changes in cancer cells and its microenvironment into successful interventions. A particular challenge is tumor heterogeneity within and between patients. An important focus of research is therefore on the development and use of molecular imaging tools – both radioactive and optical – for drug development, patient and target selection and for monitoring treatment effects. For example, serial tumor biopsies result in spatiotemporal information on tumor heterogeneity.
Smart and small early clinical studies are considered to be the basis for successful translation. In addition, phase II studies followed by phase III studies will ultimately provide a credible evaluation of diagnostic accuracy of dynamic monitoring modalities and novel treatment options.
Often, more detailed cellular mechanistic information is required to understand the nature of the various early changes in tumor lesions, their microenvironment and the response patterns seen in patients. This requires studies with a broad variety of techniques to define pharmacodynamic behavior of a systemic treatment with more detail on tumor pathology, -omics, novel imaging techniques and pharmacokinetics.
Positioned in a horizontal matrix structure, this programme inherently interacts with and receives scientific input from the translational findings within the GUTS programme and from early translational results from the sister programmes DARE, TARGON, and SALL.
Due to the improving results of anti-cancer treatments and the increasing numbers of long-term survivors, the relevance of and knowledge about the pathogenesis of treatment induced long-term (and short-term) morbidity is also increasing. Improving knowledge about the occurrence of side-effects will provide opportunities for tailoring potentially toxic treatment and/or guiding primary and secondary strategies to prevent serious side effects of cancer treatment on an individual patient basis.