Ahead of the curve

A free online tool named REAP helps researchers to evaluate how cells respond to varying drug levels and to compare different drug candidates.

Image credit: Public domain

Finding a new drug which is both safe and efficient is an expensive and time-consuming endeavour. In particular, establishing the ‘dose-effect relationship’ – how beneficial a drug is at different dosages – can be challenging. Predicting this curve requires gathering experimental data by exposing and recording how cells respond to various levels of the drug. However, extreme values are often observed at low and high dosages, potentially introducing errors that are hard to correct in the prediction process. Yet, these extreme observations are sometimes genuine so researchers cannot just ignore them.

To improve dose-effect estimation, Zhou, Liu, Fang et al. developed a new general-purpose approach. It uses advanced statistical modelling to account for extremes in lab data. This strategy outperformed other methods when dealing with these observations while also providing higher efficiency in data analysis with more uniform data in experiments.

To facilitate implementation, Zhou, Liu, Fang et al. set up a user-friendly tool baptized ‘REAP’; this free online resource allows scientists without advanced statistical experience to harness the new approach and to perform dose-effect analysis more easily and accurately. This could boost research across many different disciplines that examine the effects of chemicals on cells.