Researchers identify genetic key to precise cancer treatment

Researchers identify genetic key to precise cancer treatment

Brisbane, Australia (ISJ) - An international team of researchers have identified genetic changes or mutations that trigger oesophageal cancer. The team, which was lead by Cancer Research UK, International Cancer Genome Consortium and University of Queensland, Australia has identified three distinct genetic sub-groups of oesophageal adenocarcinoma ? the sixth most common cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide.

?DNA sequence information could help streamline patients into the most appropriate treatment based on the genetic signature of their disease,? said Professor Andrew Barbour from University of Queensland?s Surgical Oncology Group. ?It would mean, we are giving the best treatment to the right patient, at the right time.?

The incidence of oesophageal adenocarcinoma is increasing, particularly among obese men with reflux (heartburn) and a history of smoking.

Researchers used whole genome sequencing to analyse changes to or ?scarring? of genes which drive the cancer at a molecular level.

Dr Nic Waddell from QIMR Berghofer?s Medical Genomics Group said the findings suggested, different sub-groups would respond to different treatments.

?The first sub-group is characterised by extensive DNA scarring and the inability of cells to repair damage,? Dr Waddell said. ?This sub-group accounts for 18 per cent of oesophageal cancer cases and is likely to respond to certain types of chemotherapy.

?About half of patients with oesophageal adenocarcinoma are in the second sub-group, which is characterised by a high rate of genetic mutations,? he added. ?This sub-group of patients could potentially be a target for immunotherapy treatments.

?The remainder of patients fall into the third category, but there is still a lot more work to be done to understand the best treatment options for these patients,? said Dr Waddell.

While the research is still in the discovery stage, scientists say the expertise and technology is available to sequence the DNA of oesophageal cancer patients, for about the same cost as a PET scan.

Source: University of Queensland

Image courtesy: University of Queensland

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