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Bowel cancer breakthrough hailed

24 March 2015 09:07

Specialist travel insurance is available to bowel cancer patients

Specialist travel insurance is available to bowel cancer patients

Improved treatment for bowel cancer could be in sight after scientists found a link between the genetic changes in tumours and the responses they trigger in the body's immune system.

The Focus4 trial is already offering to bowel cancer patients drugs that are tailored to their specific genetic profile. But the research team at the University of Birmingham says its new findings could result in further improvements to the personalised treatments.

The study, which was funded by Cancer Research UK, discovered that some genetic mutations in bowel tumours are more likely than others to trigger an immunity response.

Both bowel cancer survivors and those still having treatment for the disease can find it hard to find the cover they need to go on holiday but specialist cancer travel insurance is available.

What the researchers say

The scientists say the findings suggest that doctors could assess whether immunotherapy treatments are suitable for their patients by examining their tumours' genetic profiles.

Treatments aimed at boosting the immunity response and switching off the immune suppression linked with some genetic mutations could also be developed, they hope.

Professor Gary Middleton, who led the research, says the findings could provide a further boost to current work to personalise immunotherapy treatment for bowel cancer patients.

The team used The Cancer Genomic Atlas database to examine the link between the immune system and genetic mutations in bowel cancer.

What Cancer Research UK says

Cancer Research UK says although the link established in the study is not yet fully understood, it is nevertheless strong.

The charity's senior science communication manager, Nell Barrie, says more research to shed light on the different immunity responses to bowel cancer could result in new drugs being developed.

The study was published in the Oncoimmunology journal.