Bowel & Cancer Research

How people respond to therapy for rectal cancer

Rectal cancer is a common form of colorectal cancer. Although everyone with rectal cancer receives chemoradiotherapy, up to 40% of people will not respond to treatment. This leaves them undergoing aggressive treatment for no benefit.

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Rectal cancer occurs in the lower bowel, just above the anus, the rectum. It is one of the most common forms of bowel cancer. Currently patients diangosed with rectal cancer will undergo chemo-radiotherapy before surgery with the aim of reducing the size of the tumour in order to make the surgery more effective. Responses to this vary widely, with up to 40% of people gaining no benefit at all from this therapy.


The team have identifed a specific gene which they think is prevents cancer cells dieing. Their aim is to understand the mechanism by which the cells are protected from cell death. They will use 2D and 3D cell culture models, clinical samples and population based studies to see whether the interactions of related genes could explain why current treatments fails some individuals.