Existing drugs could also treat stomach and colorectal cancers

A group of drugs called JAK inhibitors that are already used to treat the rare blood disorder myelofibrosis may be effective in treating stomach and colorectal cancer, new research from Australia has found.

The pre-clinical research, which was carried out by a team of scientists from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, found that the JAK inhibitors reduced the growth of inflammation-associated stomach and bowel cancer.Dr Emma Stuart who was part of the team stated that the discovery was the result of the team’s long-standing interest in the link between inflammation and cancers of the digestive tract.

“Recently we have begun to unravel the complex signalling that occurs in inflamed tissues, such as when a person has a stomach ulcer or suffers from inflammatory bowel disease, and how this drives cancer development,” she said.

This study investigated molecules called JAK proteins, which are involved in the development of cancer in the stomach and bowel. When they tested the effect of JAK inhibitors in mouse models of stomach and colorectal cancer, they found that they slowed down the growth of tumours and killed many of the cancer cells.

“By understanding the molecules that are involved in promoting the survival and growth of cancer cells, we have been able to identify which of these molecules can be targeted with potential anti-cancer treatments,” Dr Stuart added.

These findings are particularly useful as JAK inhibitors have already undergone clinical trials for treating cancer-like blood disorders. The research team hopes that this will reduce the time that it will take to commence trials following on from their research.

Professor Matthias Ernst, who was also part of the team said, "The reason this discovery is particularly exciting is clinical trials have already shown that JAK proteins can be safely and successfully inhibited in patients."

These findings have been published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.

A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
A common name for the large and/or small intestines. Full medical glossary
Abnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of all living organisms. Full medical glossary
Thickening and scarring of tissues, for example, owing to inflammation or injury. Full medical glossary
The body’s response to injury. Full medical glossary
A group of inflammatory conditions of the intestine. The two major forms are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Full medical glossary
Compounds that form the structure of muscles and other tissues in the body, as well as comprising enzymes and hormones. Full medical glossary
Relating to the rectum, the lowest part of the bowel leading to the anus. Full medical glossary
the organ or the body where food is stored and broken down Full medical glossary
A group of cells with a similar structure and a specialised function. Full medical glossary
An abnormal swelling. Full medical glossary
Any abnormal break in the epithelium, the outer layer of cells covering the open surfaces of the body. Full medical glossary