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Bowel cancer patients could benefit from new targeted treatment

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Scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research have found a new drug target for advanced bowel cancer.

Dr Janine Erler and colleagues earlier discovered the enzyme lysyl oxidase (LOX) plays a key role in the spread of breast cancer, and suspected it may also be involved in metastasis of other cancers.

In the latest study, published today in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Dr Erler’s team confirmed LOX was also important in bowel cancer growth and spread. They found cell growth increased in tumour cells with high levels of LOX, while low levels of LOX led to limited cell growth.

The team further showed that LOX was activating a molecule called SRC to promote cancer growth and spread. A drug called dasatinib is known to block SRC function and is already being used to treat leukaemia patients.

In laboratory tests, Dr Erler’s team found dasatinib reduced bowel cancer cell growth by inhibiting the effects of LOX.

“Our findings have revealed two potential new avenues for combating advanced bowel cancer - either with existing SRC inhibitor treatments or with drugs currently being developed to target LOX,” Dr Erler says.

“We are looking forward to future clinical trials to see whether these drugs could benefit patients with advanced bowel cancer, who currently have few treatment options.”

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