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Mutations in blood stem cells and colon cancer

US scientists have found how common age-related changes in the blood system can make certain colon cancers grow faster.

The study also suggests how these effects might be targeted to reduce tumour growth.

As we age, the haematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow that give rise to all of the body’s different blood cells gradually acquire mutations in their DNA.

Most of these mutations have no effect, but some can enhance a particular stem cell’s ability to survive and proliferate, resulting in large numbers of blood cells that carry the same mutation.

This phenomenon, known as clonal haematopoiesis, is seen in 10%–20% of elderly people and is associated with an increased risk of developing blood cancers.

But clonal haematopoiesis is more frequently seen in patients with many other types of cancer.

Guryanova and colleagues decided to investigate the role of clonal haematopoiesis in colitis-associated colon cancer (CAC). Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a well-known risk factor for colon cancer, and clonal haematopoiesis is prevalent in both IBD and colon cancer patients.

They found clonal haematopoiesis promotes the development of CAC by increasing the number of blood vessels that supply the intestinal tumours with nutrients and oxygen. Blocking the formation of these extra blood vessels with axitinib, a drug to treat advanced kidney cancer, inhibited the growth of CAC tumours in mice with clonal haematopoiesis.

Image credit | Science-Photo-Library


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