Thanks to advances in research over the years, we know more about cancer than ever before, with new discoveries being made all the time. In some cases this knowledge has led to life-saving new treatments. In others, it causes frustration and head-scratching until more pieces of the puzzle fall into place.
For example, why do some patients with the same type of cancer respond to a treatment but others don’t? And what makes some cancers grow and spread aggressively while others are less dangerous?
Thanks to research, answers to these questions are coming. Much of this progress hinges on the use of new technology to analyse the faulty genes in cancer cells, enabling researchers and doctors to characterise the molecular fingerprint of an individual person’s cancer and select the most appropriate treatment.
As an example, last year our scientists showed that, based on the genetic makeup of each patient’s disease, breast cancer can be divided into at least ten distinct subtypes, each with different outlooks and responses to treatment.
Now it’s bowel cancer’s turn under the spotlight, as researchers at our Cambridge Institute – along with colleagues in the Netherlands and Oxford – have discovered a new subtype of bowel cancer, which has a worse outcome than other types and is resistant to current targeted treatments.