Page URL:

Genome study reveals potential drug targets for colon cancer

23 July 2012
Appeared in BioNews 666

The genetic mutations underlying colon and rectal cancer are so similar that these cancers should be classified as one disease, a study suggests. Researchers analysed over 200 tumour samples and also identified genes that could serve as targets for future drug treatments.

Dr Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health which funded the research, said that the team had revealed 'the true genetic nature of colon and rectal cancers' and this was 'an important achievement in our quest to understand the foundations of this disease'.

Scientists working with the international Cancer Genome Atlas Network sequenced the exomes - the protein-coding portions of all the genes in the genome - of the tumour samples. They were able to reveal which genes and signalling pathways are often abnormal in colorectal cancer and identified new genes which may be important in the cancer's development, as well as confirming existing key players.

Such information may change treatment strategies in colorectal cancer. For example, one of the genes, ERBB2, that the researchers associated with colorectal cancer is also mutated in some types of breast cancer. Patients with this type of breast cancer respond well to the drug Herceptin and so this drug may be effective in colorectal cancer. Clinical trials would be needed to confirm this.

The study also highlighted genetic factors that may influence the likelihood of surviving the disease. Earlier research had already highlighted an association between a cancer's aggressiveness and hypermutation - an abnormally high rate of genetic mutation. After relating their findings to the according patient outcomes the authors concluded that mutation rate might be a better indicator of survival than the one currently used.

Speaking to The New York Times, Dr Charles Fuchs, a gastrointestinal cancer expert at Harvard University and co-author on the study, said that translation of the study's findings into clinical practice 'is going to take time, and it is going to take effort', but added: 'I don’t want to minimise the singular importance of this paper. It is transformative'.

Comprehensive molecular characterization of human colon and rectal cancer
Nature |  18 July 2012
Genetic Aberrations Seen as Path to Stop Colon Cancer
New York Times |  18 July 2012
TCGA Researchers Report on Colorectal Cancer Analyses
GenomeWeb (subscription) |  18 July 2012
TCGA Study Shows Colon and Rectal Tumors Constitute a Single Type of Cancer
The Cancer Genome Atlas (press release) |  18 July 2012
6 April 2020 - by Dr Nicoletta Charolidi 
A new study characterising the microenvironment of colorectal cancers has revealed a distinct population of cells, residing next to tumour-initiating stem cells, which themselves promote the start of tumour growth in the colon...
24 March 2014 - by Daryl Ramai 
A stool-sample DNA test has detected 92 percent of colon cancers in a large clinical trial, compared to 74 percent picked up by the most commonly used non-invasive test...
21 October 2013 - by Dr Naqash Raja 
Common gene mutations link 12 cancer types such as blood, colon and kidney, research from Washington University School of Medicine, USA, has shown...
7 May 2013 - by Suzanne Elvidge 
Genetic analysis of tumours provides the key to treating them effectively, according to two studies carried out by The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA)....
29 October 2012 - by Rivka Marks-Maran 
Thousands of genetic mutations associated with pancreatic cancer have been identified in an international study...
19 December 2011 - by Sarah Pritchard 
A gene known as deleted colorectal carcinoma (DCC) could safeguard against the development of the colorectal cancer by inducing a process called apoptosis, or cell death...
7 June 2010 - by Dr Sophie Pryor 
US scientists have identified a region of DNA, which may contain a novel gene responsible for the progression and spread of colorectal (bowel) cancer....
1 March 2010 - by Rose Palmer 
A personalised blood test that could track how a tumour responds to treatment and whether cancer is recurring has been developed by researchers in the U.S...
28 September 2009 - by Dr Will Fletcher 
Scientists in the UK have found that a daily dose of aspirin may halve the chance of men with Lynch Syndrome developing colon cancer, one of the three most common cancers in developed countries. Lynch Syndrome is an inherited condition, which increases vulnerability to cancers of the colon, rectum, stomach, brain, liver, womb and elsewhere. Whilst the syndrome only accounts for five per cent of all colon cancer cases, the new findings are significant because men with the condition normally ha...
8 May 2005 - by BioNews 
All colon cancer tumours should be screened for genetic mutations associated with an inherited form of the disease, say US researchers. The team, based at the Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center, say that colon tumours should be tested after surgery, to identify patients and relatives who might benefit from genetic...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.