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Bowel cancer indicator should lead to better treatment

Monday, 8 September 2008

Stem cell scientists in North East England have developed a more accurate way of identifying aggressive forms of bowel cancer, which should eventually lead to better treatment and survival rates.

The UK-led team, headed by scientists from Durham University and the North East England Stem Cell Institute, (NESCI*), studied tissue samples from 700 colorectal cancer patients and tracked their progress.

Healthcare and Lifesciences Fact/What is NESCI

They found that patients who had a stem cell marker protein called Lamin A present in their tissue were more likely to have an aggressive form of the disease. The team concluded that if the marker is detected in the early forms of colorectal cancer, these patients should be given chemotherapy in addition to the surgery normally offered to ensure a better survival predicament. The team now aims to develop a robust prognostic tool for use in the health service.

The study, funded by the Association for International Cancer Research and NHS Research and Development funds, is published in the open-access scientific journal Public Library of Science One (PLOS One).

The Durham University/NESCI scientists worked with colleagues from The James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, and the Departments of Pathology and Epidemiology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

Professor Chris Hutchison, of Durham University and NESCI, said: “Currently the hospitals use a standard test to work out how far the cancer has progressed and then they use this to determine the treatment the patient should receive. However, we are potentially able to more accurately predict who would benefit from chemotherapy.”