Bowel cancer tumours “delayed” by new drug, say Scottish researchers

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A new drug to tackle tumours among bowel cancer patients could delay regrowth, according to a recent study involving Scottish researchers.

Bowel cancer is the fourth biggest cancer killer in the UK, with over 42,000 people diagnosed every year.

University of Glasgow - Research News Scotland
Glasgow University has played a significant part in the recent trials.
Photo by Paulina B on Unsplash

During a major trial, 44 patients with the most common mutations of the cancer and who had already received chemotherapy, were given the new drug; the results then compared to 25 patients who had not taken it.

Following the trial, it was found that adavosertib, which is ingested as a daily pill, could delay tumour growth by an average of two months.

The drug works to kill cancer by inhibiting a protein which supports cell division in the tumour.

Part of the wider FOCUS4 collaborative trial, the research is being led by University College London, in collaboration with the universities of Glasgow, Oxford, Leeds and Cardiff.

The investigation is funded by Cancer Research UK, the EME Programme and AstraZeneca, with the findings published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

This trial, FOCUS4-C, had key input from staff at Glasgow University and Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre.

Professor Richard Wilson, FOCUS4 co-chief investigator from Glasgow University said: “The FOCUS4 trial demonstrates how collaborative research and team science can deliver for our current and future patients with cancer.

“We enrolled 1,434 patients from 88 hospitals across all four UK devolved nations, answering important questions about how best to treat colorectal cancer in the future.”

Few side effects were identified, affecting no more than 11% of patients from the group.

Lead author Dr Jenny Seligmann, from the University of Leeds said: “These results show promising signs that adavosertib may be effective in delaying re-growth of bowel cancer in some patients and is well tolerated.

“The findings are particularly encouraging as the subset of patients involved represent a third of all bowel cancer patients and, while other patients have treatments developed specifically for their tumour types, this group currently has very limited treatment options.”

Researchers are advising that larger trials are needed to learn how the effectiveness of the pills compares to standard treatments.

This breakthrough also has the potential to benefit other types of bowel cancer, outside of the two mutations focussed on in the study.

Professor Louise Brown from UCL, co-author and statistical lead for the trial said: Our UK wide trial is the first in the world to investigate potential treatments for bowel cancer by stratifying patient groups according to the chemical make-up of their tumours.

“This allowed us to test a number of new approaches at the same time which is a more efficient way of testing treatments.”

She added: “The results for the adavosertib arm of the trial are potentially important and represent a glimmer of hope for patients in this group.”