A new research in genetics shows how manipulating certain genes of mice reversed colorectal cancer. The cancer cells were modified into normal ones within days – the tumour growths were thus changed. The scientists now wish to do the same in humans. The findings have been published in the journal Cell.
The trouble with colorectal tumours is that they might come back after treatment is over. Drugs can kill the cancerous growths, but, somehow, the latter can resurface weeks later. Furthermore, the side-effects resulting from this are extremely unpleasant. This is why the new research is viewed as a ray of hope.
“Treatment regimes for advanced colorectal cancer involve combination chemotherapies that are toxic and largely ineffective, yet have remained the backbone of therapy over the last decade,” said senior researcher Scott Lowe from the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York in a press release by the journal Cell.
In the press release, the pertinence of the research is highlighted as follows:
“The findings provide proof of principle that restoring the function of a single tumour suppressor gene can cause tumour regression and suggest future avenues for developing effective cancer treatments.”
The team of researchers behind the study reactivated a gene called adenomatous polyposis coli (Apc) that is normally switched off in human colorectal tumours (90 % of the cases). By doing do, tumour growth was stopped in mice. Moreover, intestinal function was restored in a matter of 4 days as Apc levels were brought back to normal.
Two weeks later, all tumours that were observed in the intestines of the mice were gone. Six months later, no sign of tumour regrowth was seen.
The scientists hope to reproduce these results in humans. However, it is going to be a challenge: the genes are humans cannot be edited in the way those of the mice were. The researchers are, therefore, looking for alternative ways to restore Apc function.