In a break through discovery, researchers have uncovered four different types of bowel cancer which could allow doctors to treat each type differently.
Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research in London believe that the most immediate implication of their findings would be to help identify patients at risk of developing more serious, fast-growing disease that requires more intensive treatment.
In the study, researchers combined data from 3,443 patients with bowel cancer from all over the world including genetic mutations, gene activity, immune system activation, cell metabolism, cancer cell type and ability to invade neighbouring tissues.
They found that 87 per cent of bowel cancers could be robustly assigned to one of the four groups. Tumours within the four ‘consensus molecular subtypes,’ or CMSs, each had a pattern of irregularities that could leave them vulnerable to the same treatment strategy.
Patients with one particular type of bowel tumour, CMS4, were often diagnosed at stage III and IV, had high levels of spread to other sites in the body, and had significantly worse survival rates than the other types.
Patients with another type, CMS2, had much better survival rates even if the cancer had relapsed.
Researcher Anguraj Sadanandam their study had identified four distinct types of bowel cancer, each with a definite set of genetic and biological characteristics, and some of which are more aggressive and more likely to be fatal than others.
Sadanandam said that this could allow doctors to pick out those patients with more aggressive disease and treat them accordingly.
He concluded that it could lead to development of new molecular diagnostic tests to diagnose patients by their particular type of bowel cancer, and give them the most effective treatments for that type.
The study is published in the Journal Nature Medicine.