TUESDAY, June 2, 2015 (HealthDay News)—Colon cancer is genetically different in older and younger patients, and young adults may require different treatments, a new study suggests.
While the overall rate of colon cancer in the United States is falling, the rate is rising among younger adults. And previous research has shown that colon cancer is more aggressive in patients younger than 50 than in older people, the researchers noted.
In this study, researchers compared the genetics of five colon cancer tumors from younger patients (half of them younger than 31) and six tumors from older patients (half older than 73).
"We saw differences in two important gene signaling pathways, PPAR and IGF1R, which are involved in regulating cell development, metabolism, and growth," Dr. Christopher Lieu, an investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, said in a university news release.
Changes in these signaling pathways have been linked to several types of cancer, he and his colleagues noted.
The researchers also found that tumors from younger patients were enriched for pathways responsible for metabolizing drugs.
"Chemotherapies challenge cancer cells and younger people may metabolize these chemotherapies differently than older patients. This may explain why our traditional chemotherapy treatments may be less effective for younger patients with metastatic colorectal cancer," study lead author Todd Pitts, a research instructor in developmental therapeutics program at the Cancer Center, said in the news release.
The study was scheduled for release this week at the annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology, in Chicago. Findings presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The researchers plan a larger study to confirm their findings.
"If I were to shoot for the stars, I would say that our end goal is to be able to offer better treatments for this population of young colorectal cancer patients that seems to be at higher risk from the disease," Lieu said.
The American Cancer Society has more about colon cancer.