Understanding the genetic mutations that cause cancer tumors is one of the most complicated, but promising, aspects of cancer research. At Roswell Park, we’ve launched a new study that uses advanced genetic sequencing methods to explore the mutations found at different stages of colorectal cancer. This information can help us develop new, more effective ways of treating the disease.
Testing the primary tumor—the area where cancer first occurs—for genetic mutations is standard practice to determine a course of therapy. But what if the genetic make-up of that cancer changes when it metastasizes and spreads to other parts of the body? Treatment methods targeting genetic mutations that only exist in the primary tumor could be less effective.
To better understand this process, our new study is comparing the genetic mutations in primary colorectal tumors with those found in metastatic tumors. In addition, we’re exploring whether a variety of mutations can be found within the same tumor.
How can this information help patients? By identifying the genetic differences at every stage of colorectal cancer, we can work toward developing gene therapies that target each mutation and stop cancer from growing and spreading.
This information could be very valuable because currently only one genetic mutation in colorectal tumors can be targeted, a marker known as KRAS that is often associated with a poor response to conventional treatment. Comparatively, a disease like lung cancer has about 15 mutations that can be identified and treated with existing therapies.
I’m confident that this kind of research will help us discover many new genetic mutations associated with colorectal cancer, ultimately leading to new, better treatment options and improved survival rates for patients.