New biomarkers for bowel cancer treatment

New biomarkers for bowel cancer treatment

Scientists can predict in the lab whether a drug will be effective for individual colorectal tumors

Colorectal carcinomas arise in different forms, so all treatments do not work for all patients. OncoTrack, a public-private consortium supported by the Innovative Medicines Initiative Joint Undertaking, has conducted one of Europe’s largest collaborative academic-industry research projects to develop and assess novel approaches for identification of new markers for colon cancer.

Scientists from the OncoTrack Consortium, including researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin and the company Alacris Theranostics, have analyzed tumor samples from patients with this type of cancer in a preclinical study. In particular, the scientists looked for biomarkers, i.e. molecules that are typical of the different tumor sub-groups and provide valuable information for diagnosis and potential treatment. Among other things, the research team discovered molecules that can predict the effectiveness of two drugs commonly used to treat this disease: Cetuximab, which inhibits the receptor for the epidermal growth factor (EGFR), and the chemotherapy drug 5FU.

Bowel cancer is the third most common form of cancer in the world and 95 percent of cases are colorectal carcinomas. At an advanced stage they are one of the most common causes of death, as only some patients respond to drug treatment. The experts do not know all the precise reasons for this, but it is clear that colorectal carcinomas are a very heterogeneous group of cancers. “Better understanding of this molecular heterogeneity and its impact on drug response is required”, says Bodo Lange, CEO at Alacris Theranostics. To be able to predict a tumor’s response to certain drugs more accurately, scientists require detailed information about the molecular profiles of the patients and their tumors.

Read the full press release