Harnessing supercomputers to understand the molecular and cellular processes of metastatic cancers and to develop novel therapeutics targeting the disease.

Metastasis, which is the spread of cancer cells from its originating organ to distal organs, is the main cause of death in cancer patients. The World Health Organization (WHO) had projected colorectal and pancreatic cancers to be among the top ten contributors to mortality by 2030, with metastatic disease to be the main contributing factor to patient mortality in these cancers.

Metastatic diseases are usually refractory to standard-of-care therapeutics and not-amenable to surgical resection. Therefore, the five-year survival rate of patients with metastatic disease is dismal, with less than 15% of such patients expected to survive beyond five years. This points to an urgent need to identify therapeutic vulnerabilities in metastatic colorectal and pancreatic cancers.

A team of researchers from A*STAR’s Genome Institute of Singapore is utilising NSCC’s high performance computing resources to understand the underlying molecular and cellular processes of metastasis in order to develop novel therapeutics targeting metastatic disease. In recent years, single-cell sequencing technology has matured, which allowed for high resolution transcriptomic interrogation of the complex cellular milieu of metastatic cancers. Such sequencing efforts allowed researchers to identify the cellular heterogeneity inherent in cancers and understand how diverse cell types can interact cooperatively with each other to drive cancer progression despite treatment. Additionally, single-cell sequencing can also allow researchers to identify rare cancer cells that are inherently resistant to therapy and can initiate metastasis. By understanding the biology and source of metastatic relapse, new therapeutics can then be developed which either disrupt the synergistic inter-cellular interactions driving cancer progression or by specifically targeting metastasis-initiating cells.

To find out more about the NSCC’s HPC resources and how you can tap on them, please contact [email protected].

NSCC NewsBytes October 2021

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