New study reveals role of proteins in treating bowel cancer


A new bowel cancer study conducted by the UK’s Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute has revealed the impact of mutations on protein networks.

A team of researchers studied the role of proteins in predicting the effect of common mutations on proteins in the cancer cells and to investigate if such proteins are important in predicting the cancer’s response to treatment.

The study results clearly demonstrated the cellular processes behind bowel cancer and allowed the scientists to predict the effectiveness of different drugs in treating different bowel cancer patients.

Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute senior author Dr Ultan McDermott said: “This study is promising for bowel cancer patients.

“It confirms that this common cancer is actually composed of five different subtypes that may require different drug treatments, and surprisingly suggests that proteins may be more predictive for drug sensitivity than we have previously thought.

“In the future we may need to test the patient’s genome, transcriptome and proteome to fully predict their response to cancer drugs and stratify patients for clinical trials more effectively. We are moving away from one size fits all towards personalised medicine.”

As part of the research, the team evaluated a total of 9,000 proteins for each of the 50 bowel cancer cell lines.

The team investigated the effect of 265 existing anti-cancer drugs on all 50 bowel cancer cell lines.

"We have identified many pathways within the protein network that could be targeted with drugs for bowel cancer, which we could only discover by studying the proteome."

The scientists succeeded in constructing co-ordinated networks of proteins that drive bowel cancer, and used CRISPR-Cas9 to disrupt or knock out a single gene that encoded a key protein to study the effects on the proteins in the rest of its network.

Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute first author Dr Theodoros Roumeliotis said: “We discovered that silencing one gene has consequences on the rest of the network, lessening the amount of other proteins – like a ripple effect.

“We have identified many pathways within the protein network that could be targeted with drugs for bowel cancer, which we could only discover by studying the proteome.”

The study of proteome enabled the researchers to predict drug responses that were not previously revealed by either genomics or transcriptomics.


Image: Pipette tips in laboratory setting. Photo: courtesy of The Institute of Cancer Research.