The DREAM Challenge’s mission of finding the most synergistic cancer drug combinations is one step closer to being transformed from a dream into reality, thanks to AstraZeneca’s release of preclinical data from over 50 medicines.

The DREAM Challenge, which is an open innovation competition, is an established crowd sourcing effort to examine fundamental questions in biology and medicine. It is based on the development of computer models that identify the properties of drugs that make them powerful in combination.

Transforming Cancer Treatment

Public release of a data set of this scale is unprecedented and is intended to help advance research into combination cancer therapy across the global scientific community. In the quest to find these new  therapies, AstraZeneca is joining forces with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, the European Bioinformatic Institute, Sage Bionetworks, and the DREAM community on the AstraZeneca-Sanger Drug Combination Prediction DREAM Challenge.

The data released by AstraZeneca include around 10,000 tested combinations that measure the ability of drugs to destroy cancer cell lines from different tumor types including colon, lung, and breast cancer. The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is making genomic data available to DREAM Challenge participants for the same cell lines.

Therapeutic combinations have the potential to transform the way cancer is treated, including increased efficacy over monotherapy, as well as the ability to overcome drug resistance. 

A Dream Come True

The DREAM challenge, which went live in September, has already attracted over 294 registrants. “This is the fastest recruiting DREAM challenge ever (compared to more than 35 previous challenges) and is on the way to having the largest participation ever,” said an AstraZeneca spokesperson.

Winners of the DREAM Challenge have the opportunity to see their predictions for the best combinations of cancer drugs submitted for publication in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

“We are unaware of any other public release of pre-clinical response data for a company’s early drugs on this scale, and certainly not as drug combinations. The data and biological problem under study here is complex, and we expect multiple diverse approaches will be needed to fully understand the full spectrum of mechanisms under study,” said Jonathan Dry, principal scientist, bioinformatics, iMed Oncology at AstraZeneca.

Dry continued, “We hope that by releasing this data, researchers  of diverse skill and background will try varying approaches otherwise unconsidered for this type of analysis, and in doing so teach the broader oncology community about the most promising new approaches to consider when modeling each type of combination, the most valuable biomarkers for explaining combination effect, as well as reveal real biological insight for these drug combinations that may provide steer to their effective use in patients. In short, we are pleased to be sharing and crowd sourcing this data for the ultimate benefit of cancers patients the world over.”

“AstraZeneca has a deep and broad oncology development program assessing combinations of immunotherapies and small molecules to address the significant unmet need across a wide range of cancers. This open innovation research initiative complements our own efforts brilliantly and we are delighted that the findings could be published for the benefit of the global scientific community,” said Susan Galbraith, head of the Oncology Innovative Medicines Unit at AstraZeneca, in a press statement.

Gustavo Stolovitzky, DREAM Challenge founder and IBM Program director of Translational Systems Biology and Nanobiotechnology, added in the statement, “This unprecedented drug combination data set generously donated by AstraZeneca, in addition to the genomic characterization of dozens of cell lines made available by the Sanger Institute, constitutes a unique resource. Sage Bionetworks and the DREAM Challenge are thrilled to be able to multiply the impact of these data sets by co-organizing a Challenge through which the wisdom of crowds of scientists will determine the most synergistic therapies based on genomics information.”

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