Doctors have long been aware that some colon cancer patients survive longer than others, and they may now have figured out why.
New research suggests that the location of the tumor may affect the length of time that colon cancer patients survive. Scientists have found a connection between the two factors, and the findings could affect the way that doctors provide treatment, writes Rhodi Lee for Tech Times.
Breakthrough in colon cancer treatment
Doctors may now change the way they offer treatment according to which side of the colon the cancer originated from. The research involved over 1,000 colon cancer patients whose tumor had spread.
Scientists found that those with a tumor on the right side lived for 19 months on average, while those with a tumor on the left side survived for an average of 33 months. According to study author Alan Venook from the University of California, San Francisco, colon cancer appears to be different depending on which side it develops.
In fact two different treatments are necessary for each kind of colon cancer, given the fact that the prognosis is much better for those with a left-sided tumor. It is thought that this could be due to the fact that right sided polyps are largely flat, making them harder to detect during colonoscopy and allowing them to eventually turn into cancer.
Scientists improve their knowledge of deadly disease
The study also suggests that colon cancer is not a single disease, but a number of distinct diseases.
“Each side of the colon starts in a different place, which is why the cancers are biologically different,” Venook said. “We don’t have just colon cancer, but varieties of colon cancer, and some have better prognosis than others.”
The study is the largest to focus on the location of a colorectal tumor. According to Venook the findings could lead to a revolution in the treatment of colon cancer, and also provided insight into why some patients survive longer than others.
“[T]he biology of the colon on the right side is different from the biology on the left side,” Venook said. “Previous research suggested that tumor location could affect clinical outcomes, but the effects we observed in this trial appeared to be far great than we expected.”
The death rate from colorectal cancer has been declining for various decades, but it remains among the top causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that the condition will cause 49,190 deaths this year.
Cancer research continues apace
The fight against cancer is one that receives a lot of scientific and public attention. A new breakthrough in cancer treatment could have been discovered earlier this year.
Researchers believe that they have come up with two different kinds of possible treatment. The first is a customized cancer vaccine that combats primary mutations in an individual, and the second identifies the specific immune cells that fight these specific mutations before multiplying them in a lab.
This would allow doctors to overcome the problem which is presented by the fact that not every tumor is the same. This has held back cancer research for many years, but the new approach will offer a highly personalized treatment.
Study author Sergio Quezada from University College London’s Cancer Institute,says that it will offer the “ultimate personalized form of therapy,” that may sound simple but will in fact be highly complicated.
“This would mean basically taking a cancer tumor, finding the trunk, and then designing a vaccine (to) inject in the patent,” he said. “The second approach is to ‘fish’ these cells — T-cells — that recognize the trunk, expand them outside the patient” and inject them into the patient.