Case Western Reserve geneticists have discovered a discovered a set of what they described as “master switches” for genes that appear to be key to the development of colon cancer.
Researchers called the finding, reported in the journal Science, “a breakthrough” that provides a new understanding of the processes involved in the cancer’s development that could one day lead to better diagnosis and treatment.
For the study, researchers focused on segments of DNA located between genes to find the cancer switches, which they call “Variant Enhancer Loci (VELs).
"What is particularly interesting is that VELs define a 'molecular signature' of colon cancer. Meaning, they are consistently found across multiple independent colon tumor samples, despite the fact that the tumors arose in different individuals and are at different stages of the disease," said lead researcher Peter Scacheri. "The set of common VELs govern a distinct set of genes that go awry in colon cancer."
Researchers said they will now study whether doctors can determine if VELs can be used in “personalized medicine” techniques identify specific drugs and treatments that will be most effective for a particular patient.
The study was funded, in part, by the National Cancer Institute.