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New opportunities to treat bowel cancer
Date:7/8/2013

Researchers have discovered the genetic processes that cause specific types of bowel cancer. Using this knowledge, they identified cancer drugs that target these genes. Their findings offer the opportunity to develop personalised treatment based on a person's genetic profile.

More than one million people develop bowel cancer each year, which is one of the most common causes of death in cancer patients. One in ten colon cancers are caused by mutations in the BRAF gene, a gene commonly associated with skin cancers. Although successful treatments against BRAF mutations in skin cancers have been developed, these treatments have not been effective against BRAF mutations in colon cancer.

"Our approach encapsulates the aim of cancer genomics: to discover changes to DNA responsible for cancer development and pinpoint the "Achilles heels" of cancer in order to identify new treatments," says Professor Roland Rad, lead author from the Technical University of Munich and the German Cancer Research Center. "Our studies in mice revealed how genes co-operate to cause a specific subset of colon cancers. We identified main players, the order in which they occur during tumour progression, and the molecular processes how they turn relatively benign cell growth into threatening cancers. Such processes are targets for new treatments."

The team looked at the development of BRAF associated bowel cancer in mice, replacing the normal gene with a version containing a mutation identical with that in human cancers. Mice with the mutated BRAF gene developed hyperplastic polyps abnormal growth of cell bundles in their intestine wall. These polyps progressed from benign growths to malignant cancers.

In the mutant mice, the team uncovered a stepwise process of genetic alterations, which drive the development of this type of colon cancer. Some alterations activate genes such a BRAF, making them potentially cancerous. Others disrupt protective proteins such a
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Contact: Aileen Sheehy
press.office@sanger.ac.uk
44-012-234-96928
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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