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More genetic mutations than previously known drive colon cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Genetic mutations and colon cancer

Researchers call for new treatment approach for colon cancer

Researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center have found significantly more genetic mutations that lead to colon cancer than previously known. As a result of the finding, the scientists say new treatment approaches are needed that target multiple pathways and genes at the same time.

The finding is of major importance for patients with colon cancer. Current treatments only target one or two genes. The result is that colon cancer tumors can return.

Dr. Jerry W. Shay, vice chairman and professor of cell biology at UT Southwestern said the finding contradicts what's known about the disease.

“The ways we’ve been treating patients up to now is to just go after one target when we should be going after three to four different pathways simultaneously.”

Sixty five genes; five passenger genes identified for colon cancer

In their study, the UT researchers found sixty five genes that could lead to colon cancer.

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According to Shay, current thinking is that just 8 to 15 gene mutations cause colon cancer. But he says "those numbers are dead wrong".

In new research, Shay and his team found at least 65 genes and 15 passenger gene mutations that play a significant role in causing the disease.

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women in the United States and the second most common cause of cancer deaths in men and women combined. For early diagnosis, the 5-year survival rate is 74 percent, but drops to just 6 percent in advanced stages.

The scientists say the next step it to sort out which genes need to be inactivated to successfully treat colon cancer. The valuable new research could lead to better outcomes for patients with the disease, from targeting more pathways and the newly discovered gene mutations that drive colon cancer.

Cancer Research (Priority Reports) (July 2011)

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