TAU team develops automatic tool to help drs choose best cancer treatment

Written by on August 12, 2020

According to Prof. Tamir Tuller, the technology automatically deciphers cancer genomes or mutations, which cannot be interpreted by the human brain alone or by existing models.

Prof. Tamir Tuller (photo credit: COURTESY TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY)

Prof. Tamir Tuller

(photo credit: COURTESY TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY)

A team of researchers from Tel Aviv University has developed an automatic computational system for understanding the mutations in the genomes of cancer cells. In the future, they hope it will be used in personalized medicine, drug development, diagnostics and enhanced matching of patients with the medicines that will benefit them most.



According to Prof. Tamir Tuller, who oversaw the project through the Zimin Institute for Engineering Solutions Advancing Better Lives at Tel Aviv University, the technology automatically deciphers cancer genomes or mutations, which cannot be interpreted by the human brain alone or by existing models. Specifically, the technology can decipher and model mutations that affect gene expression regulation and not only protein structure.



“If we will know what each new mutation does, we will be able to have a better treatment of each cancer type,” Tuller told The Jerusalem Post. “Cancer is classified into different types to simplify things, but each type may contain hundreds of sub-groups, each of which behaves differently due to its typical mutations.”



Furthermore, tumor cells continually evolve, improving their survivability and resistance to medical treatment.



To this end, Tuller’s system uses AI to efficiently scan and understand cancerous genomes, while incorporating computational simulations of intra-cellular processes for deciphering the effect of the mutations on the cancer cell.



Thousands of genomes have already been scanned and equally as many new mutations discovered. Going forward, these new discoveries will provide the information needed to determine which treatments are best for which cancers and which patients, and the likelihood of their success.



“The average physician, who looks at those new mutations, has no clue what they do, or how they might be relevant to the treatment,” Tuller said. “But in many cases these mutations are highly influential, and overlooking them means overlooking information that is highly relevant to successful cancer treatment.”



Now, the research team is helping to found a small commercial company to distribute the program to any doctor or other medical professional who could benefit.



“Our vision is impact-driven philanthropy that supports practical solutions with the highest potential to better lives,” said Dr. Mark Shmulevich, head of Zimin Institutes at the Zimin Foundation and a TAU Zimin Institute board member. “In addition to selecting high-quality scientific projects, TAU Zimin Institute has been making an intensive effort to bridge academic research, deep technologies and the commercial world.”



“This is the future,” Tuller said.

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