Study: Wider Genetic Testing to Diagnosis Colon Cancer Warranted

Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London sequenced the DNA of 626 patients with colon cancer and a family history of early onset disease from 140 clinical centers across the United Kingdom. Their study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found that inherited susceptibility to colon cancer was common among patients with a family history of the disease. The researchers said their findings suggested patients with colon cancer and a family history should routinely be tested for a range of known cancer genes.

Up to a quarter of patients with colon cancer who have a family history of the disease could have the causes of their cancer identified through gene testing, a new study reports. Wider testing for known cancer genes in patients with colon cancer could help in their diagnosis and treatment, and in the early detection or prevention of cancers in their relatives, the researchers said.

Inherited mutations in a well-known group of genes called the mismatch repair genes alone accounted for 11 percent of familial colon cancers. Genetic screening to detect defects in these genes has previously been shown to reduce colon cancer death rates. “Knowing which cancer gene has caused colon cancer isn’t just important for researchers — it’s crucial for the treatment, counselling and surveillance of patients and their relatives,” Richard Houlston, professor of molecular and population genetics at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, said.

“Our study has found that using just existing tests for known cancer genes, we could identify the genetic causes of familial colon cancer in perhaps as many as a quarter of cases. It’s vital that we improve access to genetic testing for cancer patients and their relatives so as many as possible can have a genetic diagnosis. Houlston added, “Of course, we are still left with three-quarters of patients where no genetic cause could be identified, and that underlines the need for further research to identify new cancer genes.”

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