Lab Canada

Ontario researchers play key role in identifying new colorectal cancer genes

Ottawa, ON – Researchers from Ottawa and Toronto played a key role in an international team that identified four new genes for colorectal cancer. The discovery, published online in Nature Genetics on November 16, examined 38,710 genetic markers in 13,315 individuals from four countries. A total of 10 genes have now been linked to colorectal cancer, and together these genes could predict up to a six fold increase in the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer.


The team included Drs Brent Zanke, Tom Hudson and Steven Gallinger. Funding was provided by Genome Canada, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) and Cancer Care Ontario.


An Ontario-based company called ArcticDx has licensed all 10 genes to develop a genetic test to determine if individuals are at high risk for colon cancer and may benefit from earlier and more intensive physical screening.


“The benefits of this research are immense,” said Dr Zanke. “If people know they have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer, they can make changes to their lifestyle and undergo physical screening tests more often and that may save lives. This is a great example of how local development of Ontario-led discoveries will have a global impact.”


Dr Zanke is a scientist at the Ottawa Health Research Institute, oncologist at the Ottawa Hospital, associate professor of Medicine at the University of Ottawa and chief scientific officer of ArcticDx. Dr Hudson is the president and scientific director of OICR. Dr Gallinger is a senior investigator at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital and is also affiliated with the University Heath Network (UHN) as Head of Hepatobiliary Surgical Oncology.