01.12.2014 UL Research breakthrough leads to better outcomes for patients with bowel cancer

Researchers at University of Limerick and University Hospital Limerick have identified several new genetic biomarkers which better predict outcomes for patients with bowel/colorectal cancer. The research team identified genes that are predictors of cancer recurrence and can also help to identify a patients’ suitability to specific types of chemotherapy.

Professor J. Calvin Coffey Graduate Entry Medical School, UL and Colorectal Surgeon, University Hospital Limerick explains: “One of the key early events in the spread of cancer is its spread to involve the lymph glands that drain the colon. The identification of tumours that will spread to the glands is a key challenge for clinicians as these are the patients most likely to benefit from chemotherapy. The ability to avoid harmful chemotherapeutic side-effects is a clinical need that has yet to be met by the diagnostic tools available to clinicians. In Ireland colorectal cancer is the 3rd most common cancer with 2435 new cases diagnosed each year. This diagnostic instrument that we have developed, and this research in general, will impact on patients globally as we can now pin-point precisely patients who will develop spread to glands, and thus benefit from chemotherapy.”

Standard testing for nodal status (i.e. pathologic) is limited as greater than 25% of cases are inaccurately staged. This has major significance as accurate staging is required in order to tailor oncologic treatment to the individual patient. Professor Coffey, in collaboration with Professor Colum Dunne and Dr Pat Kiely at UL, and Professor Matt Kalady at the Cleveland clinic, developed a multigene assay for the preoperative determination of lymph node status in colorectal cancer. The diagnostic tool can be universally applied to all forms of solid organ malignancy (including breast, oesophageal, lung and pancreatic cancer), and has led to the identification of several novel biomarkers.

This research is contributing to a global drive towards more personalised care, helping to identify treatments which will best benefit individual patients. These research findings were published in the Annals of Surgery (the premier surgical journal worldwide) - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24169164 “Introducing a novel and robust technique for determining lymph node status in colorectal cancer.” UHL and UL are partnering with world leaders in this field worldwide including Cleveland Clinic and Dana-Farber Institute/Harvard Cancer Centre.

UL Press Office