New potential for personalised treatments in bowel cancer
Scientists have found that genetic changes in bowel tumours are linked to the way the body’s immune system responds to the cancer, according to research published today in the journal Oncoimmunology.
For the first time, Cancer Research UK researchers at the University of Birmingham have found that certain genetic flaws in bowel cancer are more likely to trigger an immune response at the site of tumours, meaning that treatments to boost this immune response further could potentially be helpful for these patients.
Finding out what’s happening in a cancer patient’s immune system can be difficult and takes time. These findings suggest that genetic profiles of patients’ tumours could be used as an easy and fast way of diagnosing whether they are suitable for immunotherapy treatments, and if so which ones.
Cancer Research UK’s FOCUS4* trial is already using the genetics of bowel cancer to offer patients stratified medicine and this study suggests that we could further expand this work to include immunotherapies.
Gary Middleton, Professor of Medical Oncology at the School of Cancer Sciences at the University of Birmingham, said: “The field of immunotherapy is gaining lots of momentum and this study shows a new finding for bowel cancer. We are already using genetic profiling for stratified medicine in bowel cancer in the FOCUS4 trial. But this research indicates that we could marry immunotherapy with the work we are already doing to personalise treatment even more.”
Researchers used The Cancer Genomic Atlas, a large database, to study this relationship. From this research, scientists can now start looking at what causes a weak immune response and in the future, could target drugs to switch off the immune suppression associated with certain genetic mutations.
Nell Barrie, senior science communication manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “This study shows a strong association between certain genetic profiles and immune responses, but we don’t yet fully understand this link. Further research to investigate the fundamentals behind different immune responses could open new doors in drug development.”
For interview requests or for more information, please contact Luke Harrison, Media Relations Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0)121 414 5134.
For out of hours media enquiries, please call: +44 (0) 7789 921 165
Notes to editor:
Lal et al, ‘An immunogenomic stratification of colorectal cancer: implications for development of targeted immunotherapy’. Oncoimmunology
*Focus 4 is a trial testing treatments in 4 different subtypes of bowel cancer. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/trials/a-trial-looking-at-different-treatments-for-different-types-of-bowel-cancer-focus4
About Cancer Research UK
- Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
- Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
- Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated.
- Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival rates in the UK double in the last forty years.
- Today, 2 in 4 people survive cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that 3 in 4 people will survive cancer within the next 20 years.
- Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
- Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.
For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.