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Mapping oesophageal cancer genes leads to new drug targets

last modified Feb 12, 2019 09:19 AM


Photo of Rebecca Fitzgerald
Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, Department of Oncology, MRC Cancer Unit and co-lead of the CRUK Cambridge Centre Early Detection Programme is the lead researcher of a recent study that identified mutations responsible for oesophageal adenocarcinoma (OAC), using a combination of whole genome sequencing and whole exome sequencing technologies; whole genome sequencing determines the order of nucleotides in an organism’s DNA, including chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA and whole exome sequencing determines the sequence of all the protein-coding genes in an individual’s genome.

This research has huge potential for helping to deliver personalised therapies to oesophageal cancer patients and treatment options not currently available  beyond standard chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery. This study also revealed that more than half of the mutations identified could be targeted by drugs currently in trials for other types of cancers, potentially expediting new treatment methods.

Research is now underway to design clinical trials that provide real-time analysis of patients’ genes with the aim of offering patients the best treatment based on their own genome.

This research was conducted as part of a multi-centre consortium including the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC), and the Oesophageal Cancer Clinical and Molecular Stratification study (OCCAMS) group. The project was funded by Cancer Research UK.

Research reference: Frankell, A., et al. The landscape of selection in 551 Esophageal Adenocarcinomas defines genomic biomarkers for the clinic. Nature Genetics