What issue does this study address?

Rectal cancer affects 11,000 people per year in the UK. Currently we cannot predict which tumours will respond best to which therapy. There are two main types of polyps that can develop into rectal cancer; we believe one type (TSA) leads to more aggressive cancers that are not sensitive to radiation but may be sensitive to new highly-specific types of chemotherapy. However, by the time the cancer has developed, standards tests cannot determine which polyp type it came from. If we had this information each patient could receive the most appropriate treatment, and only patients who were likely to benefit from radiation would be exposed to it.

What are the aims of this study?

By looking at genetic material from the two polyp types, the research team will develop a panel of molecular tests to distinguish the types. They will then apply this test to a large group of rectal cancers that have been surgically removed and determine what proportion originated from the more aggressive type. This will allow them to compare cancers originating from the two polyp types with clinical outcomes and sensitivity to radiation. The research team expect this will provide a way to determine early whether a cancer is the more aggressive type, allowing treatment to be individualised.

The research team

This application was led by Ms Helen Jones, a Colorectal Surgeon who performs research at the University of Oxford.