A “fourth wave in cancer treatment” could be emerging from a field of science known as chromatin biology, according to Goldman Sachs Research—one that revolves around the body's mechanisms for unpacking DNA and directing gene expression. These mechanisms, known as chromatin “machines” or remodeling complexes, function like air traffic controllers for DNA but can sometimes develop mutations that lead to cancers. “If we are able to target the chromatin machines with a drug, the machine could be restored back to its normal function…we could be talking about a potential master switch, so to speak, that addresses a greater range of cancers that current therapy, such as immuno-oncology, cannot,” explains Paul Choi of Goldman Sachs Research in a recent episode of The Long of Short of It. While the science is still in its early stages, chromatin-based approaches have the potential to treat 20%-30% of cancers as well as other illnesses such as autoimmune diseases, and pre-clinical studies have shown promising results. “Given the size of the global cancer drug market, we think the opportunity for chromatin-based drugs could approach $40 billion over the next couple of decades,” says Choi.
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