New bowel cancer treatment may improve survival rates

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By PA reporter

A new ground-breaking treatment for bowel cancer has been discovered which may improve survival rates for patients around the world, research has found.

Researchers at Queen's University in Belfast have unearthed a new therapeutic process that targets and kills bowel cancer cells.

The research, which has been published in the journal of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, is believed to be the first of its kind.

The discovery was led by Dr Nicholas Forsythe, Professor Sandra Van Schaeybroeck and the late Professor Patrick Johnston.

Professor Van Schaeybroeck said the study was "good news" for certain bowel cancer patients in Northern Ireland and beyond.

It is hoped that following further clinical trials, the process could lead to more effective treatment for certain bowel cancer patients who present with poor survival outcomes.

The study compared two groups of patients one year after their diagnosis.

Thy included patients with a poor survival outcome and those who are resistant to cancer treatments.

The three-year research project looked specifically at "gene signatures" to identify whether the stress-response pathway of a specific bunch of cells could be a new target for treatment.


Professor Van Schaeybroeck.

Dr Forsythe said: "This research focused on an aggressive subgroup of colon cancers known as 'Braf mutants'. These cancers are not only extremely aggressive, but they do not respond well to conventional cancer treatments.

"Unfortunately, this means patients diagnosed with a Braf mutant cancer have a very poor prognosis."

Braf mutations occur in about 10% of bowel cancer cases.

"Our research has identified a cellular process that can be exploited in order to kill these cancer cells," Dr Forsythe said.

"Essentially, we can take advantage of the aggressive biology of these cancers and use it against them."

Dr Forsythe added that using a specific combination of drugs the team were able to stress these cells to a point where they could no longer survive, dying in a process known as apoptosis; a form of cell suicide.

The researchers said the next step will be to explore new drugs that could ultimately change the survival outcome for these patients.

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