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The discovery of certain genetic faults could help experts tailor treatment for bowel cancer patients in the future.
Researchers at Dundee University found faults in DNA that will allow doctors to customise therapy for bowel cancer sufferers.
It is the latest study to highlight small groups of genetically similar cancer patients who can benefit from individually tailored therapies.
The Cancer Research UK scientists carried out a genetic analysis of 106 bowel cancer tumour samples searching for faults in a key gene called K-Ras.
Knowing which patients have a faulty K-Ras gene is important because only those without the defect stand to benefit from two new “antibody” cancer drugs. In fact the drugs, cetuximab and panitumumab, might even harm patients with defective K-Ras.
Scientists now believe as many as 33% of bowel cancer patients have a K-Ras defect – around 12,375 people in total, and 3,000 more than had previously been assumed. Patients who fall within this category should not be given the new drugs.
Professor Roland Wolf, director of the Cancer Research UK Molecular Pharmacology Unit at the University of Dundee, said: “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.”
The research is reported in the British Journal of Cancer.
Copyright Press Association 2010