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Getting the right drug to the right place at the right time has been the leading principle of precision medicine, guided by GPS-like genomic advances to engineer targeted therapies. New research from the Whitehead Institute suggests more traditional chemotherapy drugs could also be fine-tuned to hit smaller targets within cells, possibly boosting their efficacy.

Cells contain organelles such as mitochondria, which churn out energy, and ribosomes, which manufacture proteins, but there are also as many as 20 other complex compartments in the nucleus that lack membranes but carry out cellular duties. Proteins cluster within these droplets, called condensates. 

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It turns out that certain cancer drugs also accumulate in these self-organizing compartments, and which one matters, Whitehead scientists reported in Science on Thursday. Their experiments in cell culture showed that how well two cancer drugs work and whether resistance develops depends on which condensates they end up in. Their findings and the tools they developed to study this partitioning phenomenon could have implications for designing new drugs or refining old ones. 

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