Major international study to improve treatment for colorectal cancer patients

The Centre for Systems Medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) is leading an international team of scientists on a major research study which aims to predict colorectal cancer patients’ response to the angiogenesis inhibitor class of anti-cancer drug which prevents growth of tumour blood vessels. The study will facilitate a more focused therapeutic approach thus limiting side-effects in patients.

The researchers have secured approximately 6 million EUR in competitive non-exchequer funding for the “AngioPredict” project which is supported by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework ‘Health’ Programme (FP7).

The project will focus on patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. At present, an important treatment for these patients is the ‘angiogenesis inhibitor’ drug Avastin (bevacizumab), which inhibits tumour blood vessel formation and thus prevents tumour growth.

This research project will investigate ways to predict how a patient will respond to Avastin, by identifying biomarkers which are found in the patient’s tumour tissue or blood and developing tests to identify these biomarkers. The ability to predict how a patient will respond to this drug would prevent unnecessary treatment, save critical time in patient care and improve quality of life.

The project is led by Dr Annette Byrne, Department of Physiology and Medical Physics & Centre for Systems Medicine, RCSI. “The ability to predict response will mean that more focused and personalised therapies can be delivered to cancer patients. Non-responding patients will be thus spared the side-effects of therapy and are more likely to receive optimal treatment with a minimum of delay,” Dr Byrne commented.

In the developed world, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in males and the second in females [1]. 50% of colorectal cancer patients develop metastatic cancer for which Avastin is a key component of therapy [2].

AngioPredict is combining cutting-edge molecular biology, multi-centre clinical trials and optimised in-vitro diagnostic discovery approaches to establish new tests that will enable prediction of patient response to Avastin. The ‘AC-Angiopredict’ clinical trial will recruit 225 patients over two years from multiple centres across the island of Ireland and from Germany.

Other RCSI investigators working on the project are Prof Jochen Prehn, Prof Bryan Hennessy and Dr Heinrich Huber in collaboration with academic partners at University College Dublin, The Irish Co-operative Oncology Research Group, Vesalius Research Centre Leuven, University of Heidelberg, Vrei University Medical Centre Amsterdam and Industry partners at Oncomark Ltd (Ireland), Epigenomics (Germany), Somantix BV (The Netherlands) and Pintail Ltd (Ireland).



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  • Strickler JH, Hurwitz HI. Bevacizumab-based therapies in the first-line treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer. Oncologist. 2012;17(4):513-24. PMID: 22477726.