Researchers at the Charite University Hospital in Berlin, in Germany, have discovered one of the key reasons why colorectal cancer develops resistance to treatments and, most importantly, how to break it down. Specifically, the study, published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, shows that colorectal cancer cells are actually made up of two different types of cells that can replace each other when cells of one type are removed.
Thus, the researchers recommend using a combination of drugs that, instead of dealing with colorectal cancer in general, acts specifically on each type of colorectal cancer cells.
As David Horst, director of research, explains, “our results suggest a new concept of anti-cancer therapy that advocates simultaneous and targeted treatment of different subpopulations of tumor cells to significantly improve the therapeutic response.”
Colorectal cancer cells change the regular signaling pathway in order to avoid treatments and progress
Similar to most types of cancer, the first option considered in the colorectal cancer approach is surgery but only when the tumor is at an early stage, while in the advanced cases, it will require the use of much more specific and targeted therapies, such as blocking the MAPK signaling pathway, well-known to promote colorectal cancer progression.
As David Horst points out, “MAPK signaling pathway therapies have limited effects and are usually only able to prolong patients’ lives by a few months. We need radical improvements in targeted therapies for those affected by this type of tumor.”
Colorectal tumors can avoid targeted treatments by reversing the activity of the predominant signaling pathway.
So, once it has been established that inhibition of the MAPK pathway is not the solution, the alternative offered by the researchers would be to act on the NOTCH signaling pathway, as it appears that, as in bladder cancer, it promotes the progression of colorectal cancer even though the MAPK pathway has been blocked.
The study revealed that using drugs that block both MAPK and NOTCH signaling pathways are more effective in treating colorectal cancer in comparison to regular therapy.