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Creating better outcomes for bowel cancer patients

A test that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to measure proteins present in some patients with advanced bowel cancer could hold the key to more targeted treatment, according to recent research.

A team at the University of Leeds collaborated with researchers at Roche Diagnostics to develop the technique, which will help doctors and patients to decide on the best treatment options. They used samples from a previous trial funded by Cancer Research UK to look at the levels of two proteins, known as AREG and EREG, which are produced by some colorectal cancers.  

Algorithms driven by AI enabled the researchers to show that patients with higher levels of these proteins received significant benefit from a treatment that inhibits a different protein involved in cancer cell growth – epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Of equal importance, patients with low levels of the proteins did not benefit from the treatment. 

Currently, anti-EGFR treatments are only given to patients with advanced, incurable bowel cancers. The researchers hope their methodology could be used in the future to identify patients in the earlier stages of illness who could also benefit from the drugs. 

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