Sean Parker team-up will use algorithms for cancer prevention

The predictive code will find targets for immunotherapy treatments.

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Reuters/Brendan McDermid
Reuters/Brendan McDermid

Napster co-founder Sean Parker's Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy isn't wasting much time putting technology to work in treating disease. It's partnering with the Cancer Research Institute on predictive algorithms that can spot cancer neoantigens (substances in tumors that will produce an immune response) in DNA to use them as preventative treatments. Scientists from six organizations (including the Broad Institute and Caltech) will receive both cancerous and healthy gene sequences in the hopes that they'll identify those sequences recognizable by immune system T-cells.

As the neoantigens only exist in tumors and are unique to each person, they're ideal for immunotherapy. You don't have to worry that you'll accidentally attack healthy cells, and you can personalize treatments instead of hoping that a one-size-fits-all approach will work.

While there's talk of developing a cancer vaccine, there's no guarantee that you'll get this Holy Grail. The Parker Institute's Ramy Ibrahim bills this as "an important first step" rather than a solution. If algorithms prove successful, though, they'll show that software can be useful for fighting cancer before it's a problem, not just after it takes hold.

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