AstraZeneca supports crowd sourcing challenge to find new combination therapies for cancer

AstraZeneca is making available preclinical data from over 50 of its medicines as part of the DREAM Challenge, an open innovation competition, to find the most synergistic drug combinations with the potential to treat cancer. 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. 

Its release underscores AstraZeneca’s commitment to open innovation and reinforces the company’s belief that therapeutic combinations have the potential to transform the way cancer is treated.

The DREAM Challenge is an established crowd sourcing effort to examine fundamental questions in biology and medicine using computational approaches. AstraZeneca is partnering 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.

Combining cancer therapies offers the potential for increased efficacy over monotherapy and the possibility of overcoming drug resistance. The DREAM Challenge is based on the development of computer models that identify the properties of drugs that make them powerful in combination. The winners will have their predictions for the best combinations of cancer drugs based on their properties submitted for publication in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

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

Susan Galbraith, Head of the Oncology Innovative Medicines Unit at AstraZeneca, said: “AstraZeneca has a deep and broad oncology development programme 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.”

Gustavo Stolovitzky, DREAM Challenge Founder and IBM Programme Director of Translational Systems Biology and Nanobiotechnology, said: “This unprecedented drug combination data set generously donated by AstraZeneca, in addition to the genomic characterisation 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-organising a Challenge through which the wisdom of crowds of scientists will determine the most synergistic therapies based on genomics information.”