IMAGE: Human colon cancers contain two populations of cancer cells, one at the tumor edge in which the MAPK pathway is highly active (indicated by green staining and the white arrowhead),… view more
Credit: Schmidt et al., 2018
Researchers in Germany have discovered that colon cancers are often resistant to existing drug treatments because they are composed of two different cell types that can replace each other when one cell type is killed. The study, which will be published May 16 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, suggests that combination therapies targeting both cell types at once may be more effective at treating colorectal cancer, the third highest cause of cancer-related death in the United States.
Early-stage colon cancers can be surgically removed but later stages of the disease require more targeted treatments, including therapies designed to block the MAPK signaling pathway that promotes colon cancer progression. “However, targeting MAPK signaling has limited effects and usually prolongs patient survival by only a few months. We therefore urgently need radical improvements in targeted therapy for patients with colorectal cancer,” says Professor David Horst of the Charité University Hospital in Berlin, Germany.
One potential alternative is to target the NOTCH signaling
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