Matching the most effective treatment to the right patient

The majority of late-stage bowel cancer patients are treated with a cocktail of drugs including oxaliplatin, which is associated with damaging side-effects in approximately 50% of patients.

Currently there is no effective way to identify patients who will benefit from the addition of Oxaliplatin to their treatment – some do and others do not. There is therefore an urgent unmet clinical need to limit unnecessary exposure of patients to the chronic, potentially life-altering side-effects of this drug. Dealing with the side-effects and the cost of the agent also imposes a significant financial burden on struggling healthcare systems.

Genetic analysis holds the key

Using cutting-edge genomic analyses at Queen’s University Belfast and as part of the S:CORT (Stratification in COloRectal cancer: from biology to Treatment prediction) consortium, researchers have begun to unravel which “sub-types” of bowel cancer benefit most from standard chemotherapy treatments – and which are more susceptible to oxaliplatin. This has identified a key role for a gene called “p53” in determining response to chemotherapy.

This PhD studentship will exploit a wealth of existing patient and lab-based data to identify which patients are most likely to respond to oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy and enable patients who will not benefit to avail of alternative therapies.

The ultimate goals are translation of these findings into the clinic.

The researchers

This PhD will be undertaken by Emily Rogan, supervised by Dr Simon McDade at Queen’s University Belfast