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Breakthrough in battling bowel cancer

By Tim Sandle     Jun 5, 2017 in Health
Belfast - Researchers from Northern Ireland have adopted a genomic approach to understanding bowel (colorectal) cancer. The aim is to develop a process to improve prognosis, which could aid patients.
One of the most challenging types of cancer for clinicians to treat is bowel cancer. Colorectal cancer (bowel cancer and colon cancer) refers to the formation of cancer in the colon or rectum. Signs and symptoms of this type of cancer include blood in the stool or a change in bowel movements. This may be accompanied by weight loss and feeling continually tired.
The causes are age related, lifestyle (such as smoking or high red meat consumption) or genetic factors. The disease often begins as a benign tumor, often in the form of a polyp, which over time becomes cancerous.
Current treatments for bowel cancer have limitations, according to Professor Mark Lawler from Queen’s University, Belfast: “Currently patients with colorectal cancer are offered chemotherapy treatment. While this treatment may be successful for some patients, for others it will have no effect on fighting the cancer.”
This emphasizes, the researcher notes, that a one-size-fits-all approach to medicine is not a viable option for these types of cancers. Instead the science group has demonstrated how novel prognostic and predictive markers for bowel cancer can be used to help medics to select the most appropriate treatment.
These markers have been developed through the analysis of molecular and genetic data generated from patient tissue samples. This review shows there are several subtypes of bowel cancer. By understanding the subtype, from a study of gene signatures, allows an oncologist to use a specific therapy, tailoring treatment to the individual patient. This fits in with the personalized medicine paradigm.
Personalized medicine (or ‘precision medicine’) is a medical procedure where patients are separated into different groups, allowing for medical practices and decisions to be tailored to the individual patient based on their predicted response or risk of disease.
The findings are published in the journal Nature Communications. The paper is titled “Cancer-cell intrinsic gene expression signatures overcome intratumoural heterogeneity bias in colorectal cancer patient classification.”
More about Cancer, Colorectal cancer, Bowel cancer
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