OPTIMISTICC: New connection drives poor outcomes in bowel cancer

20 October 2020
Bowel cancer cell, CRUK LRI Experimental Histopathology Unit

Up to 45% of bowel cancers carry a fault in the KRAS gene, detrimentally affecting how a patient will respond to treatment. New results from the OPTIMISTICC team suggest these poor outcomes may be due to the way faulty KRAS interacts with another molecule, the IL-22 receptor.

IL-22 normally plays a vital role in keeping the bowel healthy, ensuring its cells grow and divide at a normal rate. But the findings, published in Clinical Cancer Research, suggest this combination of features – high levels of the IL-22 receptor and a faulty KRAS – can cause uncontrollable division of bowel cells, driving tumour development.

Unfortunately, people whose bowel cancer carries both features are predicted to respond less well to current treatments and are more likely to relapse. But testing for both features could identify high-risk patients, ensuring they are monitored closely. And blocking the IL-22 receptor could provide a new, unexplored treatment option for these people.

Image: bowel cancer cell, CRUK LRI Experimental Histopathology Unit.

Find out more about the OPTIMISTICC team