The Life Raft Group has entered into a collaborative research project with Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork Presbyterian to investigate the efficacy of a novel systems biology approach for identifying the best treatment options for patients with advanced gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST).

About the Research Collaboration

The collaboration was highlighted in Cure Today Magazine in February and in the GIST and Sarcoma Journal.

The novel approach, developed in the Califano Lab at Columbia University, utilizes a unique algorithm software called VIPER (Virtual Inference of Protein activity by Enriched Regulon analysis) to investigate the molecular networks of GIST patients who have become resistant to approved targeted treatments, tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

This approach is unique, as instead of identifying oncogene targets which are already established in GIST, it focuses on identifying “master regulators,” proteins that are tumor checkpoints, the final “on-off” switches in GIST cells.

Using RNA-sequencing data derived from a tumor biopsy, VIPER identifies these master regulator proteins that do not appear in standard cancer genome sequencing. Once identified, these proteins can be targeted for treatment. Utilizing a clinical software platform called OncoTreat, the data provided from VIPER provides information on potential drugs or drug combinations for each individual patient.

What is the Life Raft Group’s role?

The LRG plays a crucial role in this research, providing Columbia with patient tissue from the LRG Tissue Bank. Our tissue is valuable because it comes paired with medical histories from our sophisticated Patient Registry. Having “fully annotated tissue” is rare, as few centers have clinical histories as extensive as those in our Patient Registry, and most don’t have tissue to accompany it.

How will this benefit GIST patients?

This broader targeted approach may result in more effective cancer treatment strategies for a wider base of patients. It may identify potential treatments for those GIST patients who either have become resistant to the currently identified treatment lines, or who do not currently have an identified targeted treatment.