Washington D.C. [USA], Sept. 6 (ANI
): In a recent study, scientists
have discovered that oesophageal cancer can be classified into three
different subtypes, paving the way for testing targeted treatments
tailored to patients' disease for the first time.
It could help find drugs that target specific weaknesses in each
subtype of the disease, which could make treatment more effective and
The scientists looked at the complete genetic make-up of 129
oesophageal cancers and were able to subdivide the disease into three
distinct types based on patterns detected in the DNA of the cancer
cells called signatures.
The first subtype they found had faults in their DNA repair pathways
Damage to this pathway is known to increase the risk of breast,
ovarian and prostate cancers.
Patients with this subtype may benefit from a new family of drugs,
called PARP inhibitors
, that kill cancer cells by exploiting this
weakness in their ability to repair DNA.
The second subtype had a higher number of DNA mistakes and more immune
cells in the tumours, which suggests these patients could benefit from
immunotherapy drugs already showing great promise in a number of
cancer types such as skin cancer.
The final subtype had a DNA signature that is mainly associated with
the cell ageing process and means this group might benefit from drugs
targeting proteins on the surface of the cancer cells which make cells
Lead researcher Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, said "Our study suggests
we could make changes to the way we treat oesophageal cancer. Targeted
treatments for the disease have so far not been successful, and this
is mostly down to the lack of ways to determine which patients might
benefit from different treatments. 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."
He added, "The next step is to test this approach in a clinical trial.
The trial would use a DNA test to categorise patients into one of the
three groups to determine the best treatments for each group and move
away from a one-size-fits-all approach."
Each year around 8,800 people are diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in
UK and just 12 percent survive their disease for at least 10 years.
Cancer Research UK has prioritised research into oesophageal cancer to
help more people survive the disease by bringing people together,
building infrastructure and developing the next generation of research
Co-researcher Peter Johnson said "Being able to distinguish distinct
types of oesophageal cancer is a genuinely new discovery from this
work. For the first time we may be able to identify and test targeted treatments
designed to exploit the cancer's specific weaknesses."
He added, "Although survival rates from oesophageal cancer
slowly rising in the last few years they are still far too low, and
this research points the way to a completely new way of understanding
and tackling the disease."
The research was published in Nature Genetics. (ANI