Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Scientists discover predictive biomarker for key colorectal cancer drug

01 June 2018
RCSI and international collaborators within the ANGIOPREDICT research consortium have discovered a potential biomarker that can predict which patients will receive most benefit from a key drug used to treat colorectal cancer (Avastin). By predicting the patients that would not benefit from Avastin, individuals could be spared the side-effects of this particular drug therapy, and are more likely to receive optimal treatment with a minimum of delay, while reducing cost of care.

The discovery is a critical advance in the global effort to move towards a more personalised treatment for colorectal cancer patients.

The study, led by researchers at VU University Medical Centre Amsterdam (VUmc) and RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, a highly prestigious international cancer journal. 

According to the World Cancer Research Fund, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide with nearly 1.4 million new cases diagnosed annually (1). In 2014, almost 153,000 people died from colorectal cancer in the EU equivalent to 11 per cent of all deaths from cancer. (2). Half of colorectal cancer patients develop metastatic cancer, where the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, for which Avastin is a key component of therapy (3). 

Speaking on the significance of the discovery, Professor Annette Byrne, Associate Professor at RCSI’s Department of Physiology and Medical Physics said: ‘This study has identified a potential biomarker that could be used by doctors in the future to distinguish between patients who will benefit from Avastin, and patients who will not respond. Further research is ongoing to develop a laboratory test so that the biomarker can be applied in clinical daily practice.’

‘Our overall goal is to improve the standard-of-care for colorectal cancer and to make sure  that patients only receive drugs that will work specifically in the setting of their own disease. This will reduce side-effects, treatment costs and improve patient outcomes,’ Professor Byrne added.

The international research team, led in The Netherlands by Prof Dr Bauke Ylstra and Dr Nicole van Grieken (VUMC) and in Ireland by Professor Annette Byrne (RCSI), analysed genetic alterations from archival tumour samples from patients with advanced colorectal cancer for which the complete disease course was known. Patients with tumours that lost part of chromosome 18 had a higher survival when treated with Avastin, whereas patients with an intact chromosome 18 did not.

The full research article is available online here.
 
In 2012 the ANGIOPREDICT (angiopredict.com) research consortium, led by Professor Annette Byrne at RCSI, received approximately €6 million in competitive funding from the European Commission’s Seventh Framework ‘Health’ Programme (FP7).