UK scientists have identified genetic ‘hotspots’ that could help doctors to tailor bowel cancer treatment to suit individual patients.
A team at the University of Dundee calculated that one in three people with the disease have gene faults that mean common drugs will not work for them.
The researchers analysed samples from 106 bowel cancer patients to see how often known faults in the K-Ras gene occurred.
The gene encodes a protein that is required to switch cell growth on and off, and is known to be faulty in some bowel cancers, causing the switch to be permanently ‘on’ and allowing uncontrolled cell growth.
Writing in the British Journal of Cancer, the study authors revealed that faults in this gene are even more common than previously thought, meaning that around 12,375 out of the 37,500 people diagnosed with bowel cancer each year in the UK probably have a K-Ras fault.
Professor Roland Wolf, who co-authored the study, explained: ‘These findings may in the future be relevant for selected patients with advanced bowel cancer as doctors will be able to more precisely target these treatments to the patients who will benefit and avoid treating those who won’t.’
Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, with the majority of cases diagnosed in people over the age of 60.
Posted on behalf of Prof Maggie Kirk