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Protein could identify colon cancer patients who need chemo

According to a study published on Jan. 21, a genetic marker test could help doctors identify which stage 2 colon cancer patients have an aggressive form of the disease and could benefit from chemotherapy. The test could change the way colon cancer patients in Oregon and nationwide are treated for the disease.

Typically, stage 2 colon cancer patients are not given chemotherapy after their tumors are surgically removed, because the risks of the treatment are greater than the benefits. However, researchers discovered that patients with tumors that don't produce a protein called CDX2 are more likely to suffer a recurrence following surgery and could benefit from chemo. Further, tumors can be screened for the presence of CDX2 with a simple antibody test.

Researchers examined the medical histories of approximately 1,900 stage 2 or stage 3 colon cancer patients and found that around 4 percent of them had tumors that did not express CDX2. They then looked at the outcomes of 466 patients with any stage of colon cancer and discovered that only 41 percent of CDX2-negative patients survived cancer-free for five years after surgery. Meanwhile, 74 percent of patients who had CDX2 in their tumors were cancer-free after five years. Researchers also found that 91 percent of CDX2-negative patients who were treated with both surgery and chemotherapy lived cancer-free for five years, compared to approximately 56 percent of those who did not undergo chemotherapy treatments. Despite the strong data, the authors of the study stressed that more research is needed.

A failure to diagnose cancer can allow the disease to spread. Patients who have been the victims of such an error may want to speak to a medical malpractice attorney to see if a lawsuit against the negligent practitioner or facility would be an advisable remedy.

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