Personalized Bowel Cancer Therapy on the Horizon

Genetic changes in tumors linked to immune system response to disease.

Genetic changes in tumors linked to immune system response to disease.

Investigators are closing in on a personalized treatment for bowel cancer that targets immune suppression, a recent study indicates.

Published in the journal Oncoimmunology, the study found that certain types of genetic flaws in bowel cancer are more likely to trigger an immune response at the tumor site. These findings suggest treatments that further boost the immune response could possibly help patients with bowel cancer.

Determining the action occurring in the immune system of cancer patients is difficult and time consuming, therefore the findings of the study suggest the genetic profiles of tumors can be utilized as a quick and easy method to diagnose if they are suitable for immunotherapy treatments.

An ongoing trial in the UK is already focusing on bowel cancer genetics to provide stratified treatments for patients. The current study suggests this approach could be further expanded to include immunotherapies.

"The field of immunotherapy is gaining lots of momentum and this study shows a new finding for bowel cancer,” Gary Middleton, professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Birmingham, said in a press release. “We are already using genetic profiling for stratified medicine in bowel cancer in the FOCUS4 trial. But this research indicates that we could marry immunotherapy with the work we are already doing to personalize treatment even more."

From data provided by The Cancer Genomic Atlas, investigators can next evaluate the cause of a weak immune response to target drugs that turn off immune suppression that is associated with certain genetic mutations.

"This study shows a strong association between certain genetic profiles and immune responses, but we don't yet fully understand this link,” Nell Barrie, senior science communication manager at Cancer Research UK, said in a press release. “Further research to investigate the fundamentals behind different immune responses could open new doors in drug development."