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New gene test for bowel cancer subtype

Wednesday May 22nd, 2019

A test has been unveiled that enables clinicians making a diagnosis of bowel cancer to identify which of five sub-types is involved.

Dr Anguraj Sadanandam and colleagues at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, created the test, using molecular ‘barcoding’ technology that scans the activity of 38 genes to find patterns differentiating the forms of bowel cancer.

They measured the effectiveness of the test on tumour samples from 350 patients, comparing its performance against older analytical tools. This showed that it was equally accurate but simpler, as it examines only 38 genes rather than 800.

Reporting in Scientific Reports yesterday (21 May), they explain that each of the five forms of disease has different biological characteristics which affect how they respond to drugs, so this knowledge can allow doctors to give tailored treatment.

Dr Sadanandam says: “Since we identified distinct forms of bowel cancer back in 2013, our knowledge of the different types has helped transform understanding of the disease and why patients do or don’t respond to particular treatments.

“Now we have created a new test that makes use of genetic barcoding technology to tell apart different types of bowel cancer more quickly and cheaply than has been possible up to now. Our research has brought bowel cancer testing closer to the clinic, where we hope it will soon start making a difference for patients.”

Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, added: “Over recent years it has become increasingly clear that our old labels for cancers based on where they are in the body are inadequate as a basis for choosing treatment.

“This exciting new research can discriminate between different types of bowel cancer as accurately as earlier analyses of 20 times as many genes. I am keen to see the new test further validated so it can begin benefiting patients on the NHS.”

Ragulan, C. et al. Analytical Validation of Multiplex Biomarker Assay to Stratify Colorectal Cancer into Molecular Subtypes. Scientific Reports 21 May 2019; doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-43492-0

Tags: Cancer | Gastroenterology | Genetics | UK News

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