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Tackling increased cancer risks

01 November 2010

DNA

University scientists have identified novel genes that may help indicate if a person has an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

The research, published Nature Genetics, has helped identified four new such sections of DNA that are likely to influence an individual’s risk of developing colorectal cancer and also highlighted several genes likely to be involved in how colorectal tumours actually form.

Professor Jeremy Cheadle and colleagues at the School of Medicine teamed-up with three other leading cancer centres in the UK to identify how changes in these sections of DNA, also known as genetic loci, affect an individual’s risk of developing colorectal cancer

Professor Cheadle, School of Medicine, who led the research said: "This study indicates that many more colorectal cancer loci (sections of DNA associated with an increased risk of cancer) are likely to exist and these can only be identified by large collaborative studies.

"More importantly however, not only are we starting to understand the mechanisms underlying some of these loci, we are also showing that some of them affect patient survival and response to treatment – which may have real clinical benefit".

The research was supported by Tenovus, Cancer Research Wales and the Wales Gene Park.

Dr Ian Lewis, Head of Research at Tenovus said: "Colorectal cancer affects nearly 40,000 people each year in the UK and it is the second most common cause of death from cancer. However, if caught early enough, colorectal cancer is highly treatable.

"Therefore any new way of identifying people at an increased risk of the disease could allow us to screen those individuals much earlier and help to save many lives."

The work from Professor Cheadle’s laboratory is being presented at the 35th European Society for Medical Oncology Congress in Milan and the 60th American Society of Human Genetics Meeting in Washington, later this year.

Dr Lee Campbell, Research Communications Manager at Cancer Research Wales said: "At Cancer Research Wales we are proud to have funded Christopher Smith, a PhD student at Cardiff University, whose collaborative research studies contributed to these important findings.

"In addition to being beneficial for screening purposes, identification of such distinct genetic fingerprints in colorectal cancer patients may in future allow clinicians to tailor treatments to better suit individual needs."

A copy of the paper published in Nature Genetics is available at: www.nature.com/ng/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ng.670.html

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