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Genetic Aberration in TOP2A Paves the Way for New, Potentially Rapidly Implemented Treatment for Some Colorectal Cancer Patients

Researchers from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, have characterized a genetic aberration in a group of colorectal cancer patients. The discovery gives hope for a new and efficient treatment of colorectal cancer, which is a frequent and often fatal disease. The research was recently published online on October 21, 2013 in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology. Approximately 600,000 patients die of colorectal cancer each year worldwide. 12-15 years of development and millions of dollars are typically the costs, when companies develop a new anti-cancer drug. Therefore all short-cuts to a treatment are welcome. Researchers at Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, University of Copenhagen, recently discovered such a potential short-cut. “Our new research shows that we might be able to introduce a treatment faster and cheaper than usual in the development of cancer treatment, and we estimate that it will be efficient in around 10 per cent of patients with colorectal cancer," says M.D. and Ph.D. student Sune Nygård, Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, University of Copenhagen. In the new study, the researchers have shown that approximately 10 per cent of colorectal cancer patients harbor an aberration in the gene called TOP2A (DNA topoisomerase 2-) in their cancer cells. These tumors could potentially benefit from treatment with a specific chemotherapeutic drug, a so-called “anti-TOP2A treatment,” which is already used in breast cancer patients with this gene aberration. “If the first treatment doesn’t cure a patient with colorectal cancer, the possibilities of additional treatment are limited,” says Nils Brünner, M.D., professor at the University of Copenhagen. “Therefore it is very important to find a new, efficient treatment,” he adds. The research group from the Department of Veterinary Disease Biology and professor Per Pfeiffer at Odense University Hospital have received funds from The Danish Cancer Society to initiate a clinical trial. Here it will be tested if patients with the TOP2A gene defect could benefit from the targeted anti-TOP2A treatment. “It is unique to go from a discovery in the laboratory towards a treatment for cancer patients at this pace. This is only possible when researchers and doctors work closely together,” says Dr. Brünner. [Press release] [Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology abstract/a>]