Research conducted at the University of Western Australia and St John of God Subiaco Hospital has helped uncover cancer cell markers that could help predict which bowel cancers are most likely to return – and which will respond to chemotherapy.
PhD student Tim Miller presented his findings at the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting. His research used microscopic analysis of cancer tissue samples and focused on a type of cancer cell called a ‘SOX2-positive Cancer Stem-like Cell’.
He says his research has uncovered that markers of these stem-like cells are linked to poorer survival rates and also increase the likelihood of cancer returning after surgery.
“When a cancer with stem-like cells is removed, it’s like the weed in the garden is removed, but the roots remain, increasing the risk of the cancer growing back later on. Individuals with these specific types of cells are more likely to have a cancer relapse and also less likely to be successfully treated with chemotherapy.”
Miller says that while more research is needed, the finding could help health professionals make decisions about bowel cancer treatment in the future.
“Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in Australia – hopefully this research will help improve our understanding of this cancer type to help us determine if we can develop more targeted treatments for cancers with this marker.”
Tim Miller was funded by a University Postgraduate Award and a John Clauscen Murray Bowel Cancer Scholarship. This project was funded in part by the Tonkinson Foundation for Colorectal Cancer Research.