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Genes influence survival in bowel cancer patients

24 April 2015

Swirl of colourful chromosomal diagram

Welsh scientists have for the first time shown that common inherited genetic variants influence life expectancy in patients with colorectal cancer (CRC).

A team from Cardiff University's School of Medicine analysed over 7,600 patients with CRC from 14 different centres across the UK and the US. They found that a genetic variant in the gene CDH1 (encoding E-cadherin) was strongly linked to survival.

By combining data of both inherited genetic variations and variations found within the cancers, scientists believe that the information gleaned will play a crucial role in managing patient survival.

Study leader Professor Jeremy Cheadle from Cardiff University School of Medicine said: "Our findings show that patients carrying a specific genetic variant, which is found in about 8% of patients, have worse survival, with a decrease in life expectancy of around four months in the advanced disease setting."

Dr Lee Campbell, Science Projects and Research Communications Manager from Cancer Research Wales, who part-funded the study, said: "This work shows the potential use of genetic variants to help provide clinically useful information to patients suffering from colon cancer.

"Not only does this important piece of research allow clinicians to make more informed treatment decisions for individuals in future, but also has the capability to enhance existing screening or post-operative surveillance programmes for this disease."

Dr Ian Lewis, Director of Research and Policy at Tenovus Cancer Care, who also funded this study, added: "This represents a critical first step to improving colorectal cancer patient outcomes through a greater understanding of the influencing genetic factors. We're delighted to have been able to help fund this important work."The research was supported by the Bobby Moore Fund from Cancer Research UK, Tenovus Cancer Care, the Kidani Trust, Cancer Research Wales, and the National Institute for Social Care and Health Research Cancer Genetics Biomedical Research Unit (2011-2015).

The full report is available for advanced view at Clinical Cancer Research

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