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New research into colon cancer gene might help personalize cancer treatment


Researchers have known for a while that your genetics may affect your risk for colon cancer. About five to ten percent of all colon cancers are passed from parent to child.

So, what can we do with information about our genes? A new study from Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute says doctors might be able to personalize treatment plans based on your genes.

The researchers at the Institute analyzed about 1,000 cancer genes and found that tiny differences in a gene associated with colon cancer called the "APC" gene resulted in different patient outcomes.

Imagine that the APC gene is like a cake recipe. Each person has a recipe to make cake, but one recipe might call for oil instead of butter while another uses brown sugar instead of white. While the recipe still makes a cake, they'll taste and look different.

Genes work in a similar way. The researchers at Gibbs Cancer Center found that the APC gene varies between people. These little differences can affect if and how people develop colon cancer. For example, the study found that people with normal APC genes and APC genes with two mutations had the highest mortality rates. 

“No one has ever related these specific mutations to clinical outcomes — the chances that you'll live or die,” Dr. Timothy J. Yeatman, the lead researcher, said. “I suspect that more clinicians will start looking at this gene, and consider including it in their sequencing panels."

In other words, if a doctor knows what kind of APC gene their patient has, they can further personalize treatment plans to save more lives.

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