Scientists identify new oesophageal cancer classifications

6 September 2016

UK scientists have developed a new method for classifying oesophageal cancer that could make it easier to develop targeted therapies in future.

Funded by Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council (MRC), the research looked at the complete genetic composition of 129 oesophageal cancers and subdivided the disease into three distinct types, based on patterns detected in the DNA of the cells.

The first subtype had faults in DNA repair pathways and may benefit from the class of drugs called PARP inhibitors, which kill cancer cells by exploiting this weakness. The second, meanwhile, had a higher number of DNA mistakes and more immune cells in the tumours, meaning they could respond well to immunotherapy.

Finally, the third subtype had a DNA signature associated with cell ageing, which means this group might benefit from drugs targeting proteins on the surface of the cancer cells that make cells divide.

Lead researcher Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, based at the MRC Cancer Unit at the University of Cambridge, said: "These new findings give us a greater understanding of the DNA signatures that underpin different subtypes of the disease and means we could better tailor treatment."

Posted by Edward Bartel

 


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