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Single gene target could boost bowel cancer survival by three months

Tuesday 9 November 2010

National Cancer Research Institute Press Release

Scientists have discovered a genetic region linked to survival in patients with advanced bowel cancer, according to a study being presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference today (Tuesday).

The researchers found that advanced bowel cancer patients with specific faults in this region survived on average three months less than those without the faults.

They believe the genetic region may boost the activity of a nearby gene – called EIF3H – which has previously been linked to poor survival in other cancers.

Developing drugs to block EIF3H could be an effective way of boosting survival in some patients with advanced bowel cancer in the future.

Chris Smith*, a Cancer Research Wales funded scientist at Cardiff University’s Institute of Medical Genetics, said: “This is the first genetic region identified through genome wide association studies shown to influence both survival and response to treatment in patients with advanced bowel cancer.

“Faster and cheaper genomic technologies are making it easier than ever before to pinpoint genes linked to bowel cancer risk. Understanding how these lead to cancer is the first and most important step in being able to develop more targeted treatments tailored to an individual’s genetic makeup.”

The researchers searched through the genomes of over 2,000 patients who had participated in a clinical trial**, which looked at different chemotherapy treatments for advanced bowel cancer. These were compared to genetic data from similar numbers of healthy volunteers.

The researchers looked specifically at 22 genetic regions already linked to bowel cancer risk in genome wide association studies. Of these they found one that strongly influenced survival and treatment response in these patients. This was regardless of which treatment they received, suggesting that the treatment type was not the reason for the reduced survival rates.

Dr Ian Lewis, Head of Research at Tenovus, who part funded the study, said: “These findings are very exciting as they not only open the door to more individually tailored treatment for patients with bowel cancer, they also highlight a potential target for new therapies that could ultimately increase survival in patients with an advanced disease.”

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