£5m stratified medicine programme launched to personalise care for bowel cancer patients

Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council (MRC) have jointly launched a Stratified Medicine Consortium to help personalise bowel cancer treatment by matching patients to the most effective therapies.

The £5M S-CORT* Consortium will use the latest genome-based technology to uncover the complex biology of bowel cancer in samples collected from over 2,000 patients from large clinical trials. Researchers will use this information to precisely match the right treatment to the right patient. This approach will help better predict how different patients respond to treatment, allowing the most effective therapies to be delivered to newly-diagnosed bowel cancer patients.

"We’ll identify ways to tailor treatment and ensure patients receive the drugs and other therapies that will benefit them the most, and make a significant difference to their chances of beating this common disease.” - Professor Tim Maughan, University of Oxford

These insights should help doctors decide which patients receive the chemotherapy drug oxaliplatin, what type of radiotherapy they’re offered, and may also help surgeons to remove as little of the bowel as possible.

More than 41,500 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year in the UK and treatment varies based on the type and size of the tumour, whether the disease has started to spread (metastasise), and on the health and fitness of each patient. This programme of research will identify and use new ways to predict the patient’s response to treatment based on the genetic make-up of their tumour, as well as helping doctors decide how to treat patients more effectively. 

Professor Tim Maughan, Cancer Research UK Clinician at the University of Oxford and head of the S-CORT Consortium, said: “Bowel cancer survival has more than doubled in the last 40 years. But there’s still a lot more work to do. Recognising this challenge, we have brought together key partners from the UK and Europe in this consortium.  Based on strong evidence from our previous work and generating new data from over 2000 individuals, we’ll identify ways to tailor treatment and ensure patients receive the drugs and other therapies that will benefit them the most, and make a significant difference to their chances of beating this common disease.”

Professor Mark Lawler, Chair of Translational Cancer Genomics, Queen’s University Belfast, said: “This precision medicine approach can maximise the effectiveness of both existing and brand new treatments while helping to minimise side effects, to improve survival and quality of life for our patients. Additionally, our health economic analysis will allow us to measure the benefit we can deliver for the NHS and the UK economy.”

Mark Flannagan, chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, a partner in the consortium, said: “We’re delighted to be involved in this innovative research programme, as it provides a route to improved care for our patients.”

The announcement is made during Bowel Cancer Awareness month (April) and represents a significant commitment from Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council (MRC) in developing more personalised medicine for cancer patients.

Peter Johnson,  Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, said: "We’ve a huge amount of new information coming through about the molecular changes that take place in bowel cancers, and we now need to understand how to match patients to the most effective treatments. 

“Programmes like S-CORT will take the information we get from our clinical trials to a new level. We’ve made great strides in developing new treatments for bowel cancer, and around six in 10 patients now survive for more than 10 years, but we know there is more we can do.

“This programme will help establish a blueprint for new studies looking to tailor treatment for patients with other cancer types. It builds on existing work such as a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer which launched last year."


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Notes to Editor

*Stratification in COloRecTal cancer or S-CORT is a consortium made up of the following partners: University of Oxford; Queen’s University Belfast; University of Birmingham; University of Leeds; Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute; MRC  Clinical Trials Unit; Kings College London; University of Aberdeen; University College London; Almac; Astra Zeneca; Glaxo Smith Kline; Beating Bowel Cancer; Northern Ireland Cancer Research Consumers Forum; European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer; Cardiff University; Ku Leuven; European Alliance for Personalised Medicine; The  University of Manchester; European CanCer Organisation

The funding for S-CORT is split evenly between Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council.