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Our research into bowel cancer

We are working to deliver real benefits for people with bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer.

As well as investigating the underlying causes of bowel cancer and creating tests to predict how it will respond to treatment, we are exploring new treatment approaches that can overcome cancer's ability to evolve and develop resistance to drugs. 

Our latest bowel cancer news

Our progress against bowel cancer


Our researchers are working to discover what genetic factors may increase the risk of bowel cancer.

One of our research teams found a new genetic mutation that drives the development of bowel cancer by causing higher levels of activity of the gene ETV1. We hope that, in the future, patients with this mutation will be able to benefit from drugs targeting ETV1.

We have also developed a new test that makes use of genetic ‘barcoding’ technology to separate bowel cancer into five different diseases, which means patients can receive tailored treatment for their cancer type.

Matching treatments to patients

Our aim is to give patients the best treatments for the genetic profile of their individual cancers.

Professor Nicola Valeri and his team have developed a new technique to grow ‘mini tumours’ in the lab. The idea is that each patient could have their own mini tumour grown, and then drugs would be tested against it in order to develop a personalised treatment plan.

The team have also developed blood tests, or ‘liquid biopsies’, to pick out people whose tumours are unlikely to respond to specific drugs. Liquid biopsies can help predict bowel cancer’s next move, and lead to more personalised, adaptive treatment plans.

Overcoming drug resistance

We are continually investigating how we can tackle the threat of drug resistance to create more effective treatment strategies.

One method our researchers experiment with is using targeted drug combinations. Recently, a team combined three different drugs which, together, were able to stop bowel cancer developing resistance to treatment.

We also found that some bowel cancers that are resistant to treatment could be re-sensitised using drugs that reduce inflammation, such as bromodomain inhibitors. 

Latest news on bowel cancer