UK researchers have identified a type of genetic variation which allows bowel cancer patients to live on average three months longer than those without the variant. The findings suggest this genetic fault, seen in advanced bowel cancer patients, may impede the activity of a nearby gene - EIF3H - which has been previously linked to poor survival rates in other types of cancer.
Presenting the findings, Chris Smith, a Cancer Research Wales funded scientist at Cardiff University's Institute of Medical Genetics, said: 'This is the first genetic region identified through genome-wide association studies shown to influence both survival and response to treatment in patients with advanced bowel cancer'.
The study examined which of 22 genetic regions - already linked to bowel cancer - were carried among over 2,000 advanced bowel cancer patients involved in the clinical study. The data was compared with that from a similar number of people without the disease. One region was identified as influencing survival and response to treatment in the patient group, regardless of the type of treatment they had received.
'Understanding how these (genes) lead to cancer is the first and foremost important step in being able to develop more targeted treatments to an individual's genetic make-up', said Smith. 'Faster and cheaper genomic technologies are making it easier than ever before to pinpoint genes linked to bowel cancer risk'.
Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK said: 'This study shows that genome-wide association studies could be a powerful tool for understanding genes can influence cancer survival, as well as risk'. He added: 'Studies like this will help us spot the key genetic faults in a patient's tumour and tailor treatment accordingly'.
The findings were presented at the National Cancer Research Institute's conference in Liverpool.