Four Classifications of Bowel Cancer Identified for Individual Treatment Options

December 21, 2015
Rachel Lutz

There are four different variations of bowel cancer with their own set of biological characteristics, affecting the treatment paths for each, according to a study published in Nature Medicine.

There are four different variations of bowel cancer with their own set of biological characteristics, affecting the treatment paths for each, according to a study published in Nature Medicine.

Experts from The Institute of Cancer Research in London combined data from 3,443 worldwide patients with bowel cancer to determine the distinct differences among the diseases.

The researchers looked at genetic mutations, gene activity, immune system activation, cell metabolism, cancer cell type, and the ability to invade neighboring tissues from each of the patients and used algorithm analyses to improve on the existing databases of bowel cancer classifications.

The researchers added in a YouTube video that their study encompassed the largest collection of molecular and clinical data about bowel cancer ever assembled.

A majority (87%) of the bowel cancers could be classified into four major categories defined by the researchers. Tumors that fell within the four “consensus molecular types (CMSs),” the researchers explained, demonstrated patterns of irregularities that could leave them vulnerable to similar treatment therapies.

In one particular form of the bowel cancer referred to as CMS4, the patients were often diagnosed the latest — either stage III or stage IV. Those patients had higher levels of spread to other sites in the body, the authors continued in the statement. Additionally, the patients with CMS4 had lower survival rates when compared to the other bowel cancer classifications.

The researchers highlighted another classification, called CMS2, which had much better survival rates even if the cancer happened to relapse.

“Our study has identified four distinct types of bowel cancer, each with a definite set of genetic and biological characteristics, and some of which are more aggressive and more likely to be fatal than others,” explained the study’s co-lead author Dr. Anguraj Sadanandam in a press release. “This could allow doctors to pick out those patients with more aggressive disease and treat them accordingly.

Ultimately, it could lead to development of new molecular diagnostic tests to diagnose patients by their particular type of bowel cancer, and give them the most effective treatments for that type.”

The researchers said that in the immediate future, the findings are expected to aid the identification of patients in danger of developing more serious or faster growing cancers that require the most intense treatments.