Certain sub-types of colorectal cancer arise as consequence of faulty DNA repair. This helps the cancer to evade the body’s immune system response. The research team has developed a way to visualise the genetic architecture of this sub-type of colorectal cancer within sections of a patient’s tumour.

For the first time they are able to use standard laboratory tools to trace cells and genetic alterations (mutations) that allow the tumour to evade the patrolling immune system. By comparing tumour cells with these mutations to tumour cells without these mutations within a patient’s tumour we can begin to understand how the tumour is adapting to evade immune control.

The researchers

The study is being led by Dr Marnix Jansen, a CRUK Clinical Scientist and Consultant Histopatholgist in the Research Department of Pathology at University College London Cancer Institute.

Why study tumour-immune interactions in bowel cancer?

Once colorectal cancer has metastasised the outlook for the patient becomes increasingly poor. We know that the immune system plays a role in locating and destroying cancer cells when it can recognise them and it is therefore vital that we better understand this process so that we can harness it for all bowel cancer patients.

It is anticipated that this study will deliver insights to support upcoming clinical trials at University College London with respect to biomarker discovery and the development of novel strategies to overcome immune resistance leading to real patient benefit.