Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Rethinking Drug Screening

Nature News reports on a Dana-Farber Cancer Institute study that is raising questions about the methods used to screen drugs.

The new study in Nature found a few inconsistencies in the results from two separate studies published last year that tested the performance of a number of oncology drugs on cultured cancer cells.

Specifically, the Dana Farber team led by John Quackenbush, analyzed the results of combinations of the 15 drugs and 471 cancer cell lines that were used in the two previous studies and found that just a couple of the drugs acted the same in both studies."[I]n some cases, one study classified a cell line as susceptible to a drug but the other gave the opposite result," Nature News notes.

“This is a broad cautionary tale,” Quackenbush tells Nature News. “We need to be careful about how we define phenotypes, such as whether a patient is likely to respond to a drug or have an adverse event, because if we don’t do it well, we’re not going to have good tools for advancing personalized medicine.”

Glenn Begley, chief scientific officer of Tetralogic Pharmaceuticals, adds that "if you are going to use these results to underpin drug-development programs, you need to make sure they are solid, and here is an example where there is surprising discordance between different datasets."

Quackenbush suggests that the community "devise standards for experiments that aim to test drug efficacy through large-scale cell-line screening," to ensure reliable results.