Patients with a rare bowel cancer could benefit from immunotherapy

A new study conducted at the University of Birmingham, UK, has revealed that patients suffering from a rare type of bowel cancer could be treated using immunotherapy.

Around 1% of patients suffering from bowel cancer experience colorectal peritoneal metastasis. This means that the cancer has spread to the lining of their abdomen, known as the peritoneal cavity.

This type of spread in bowel cancer patients carries a very poor prognosis and most patients do not survive beyond 12 months from diagnosis. Conventional chemotherapy is ineffective, and current treatment consists of extensive surgery, which is not always successful.

In a new study, funded by the Good Hope Hospital Charity, researchers from the University of Birmingham analysed the specific tumour biology of patients suffering from colorectal peritoneal metastasis.

As published in Scientific Reports, the team discovered that the tumours of the patients that took part in this research carry a specific mutation that makes them sensitive to immunotherapy.

Lead author, Professor Andrew Beggs from the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, said: “We have found that approximately 50% of patients with colorectal peritoneal metastasis have a type of genetic change, called hypermutation.

“This means they may be sensitive to immunotherapy as this type of treatment has good results in other patient groups with hypermutations. We also found potential sensitivity to a drug called a Porcupine inhibitor, based on another genetic marker identified in these patients.”

The research team will now begin to organise an international clinical trial to further examine the use of immunotherapy in treating patients with colorectal peritoneal metastasis. Beggs continued: “This is the first study of its kind in the world for patients with colorectal peritoneal metastasis, and our results have shown this could provide a potentially curative option for patients given the responses we have seen to immunotherapy in other cancers.”

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