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Leukaemia drugs could kill and limit reproduction of bowel cancer cells

Thu, 06/17/2021 - 18:14
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Drugs that are being trialled to treat leukaemia could also be used to fight bowel cancer according to researchers from Hudson Institute of Medical Research scientists. In a world-first, researchers found that the drugs could potentially be used to fight bowel cancer, using Nobel Prize-winning genetic screening technology CRISPR.

The researchers were using CRISPR to identify new targets for bowel cancer tumours when they realised that the gene KMT2A, usually associated with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, promotes bowel cancer. It does this by fuelling uncontrolled growth of the tumour and encouraging the cancer cells ability to 'self-renew," preventing the tumour from regression or differentiation.

They then trialled two agents that inhibit KMT2A and found that these block bowel cancer growth and self-renewal, with very little damage to normal cells. These inhibitors are very similar to others which are currently in clinical trials to treat leukaemia.

"Targeting this gene, KMT2A, reverses the aggressiveness of bowel cancer cells, and re-educates them to become normal cells," said Dr Chunhua Wan, first author of the paper, ‘Genome-scale CRISPR-Cas9 screen of Wnt/β-catenin signaling identifies therapeutic targets for colorectal cancer’, published in Science Advances.

Targeted therapy is a relatively new way of treating bowel cancer. It has many advantages over conventional therapies such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, as it only affects cancer cells, is better tolerated by patients and has fewer side effects.

"Due to limited therapeutic options, bowel cancer patients, especially those diagnosed at late stages, have very poor outcomes. Our findings may pave the way to developing new targeted therapies and benefit the treatment of bowel cancer patients," added Associate Professor Ron Firestein.

To access this paper, please click here