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Wnt stem cell signaling pathway implicated in colorectal cancer in patients under 50

​While increased screening continues to drive down overall colorectal cancer rates, the rate of colorectal cancer in patients under age 50 is increasing, and the disease is commonly more aggressive in these young patients. A University of Colorado Cancer Center study presented at the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting 2016 shows one possible reason for the increased danger of colorectal cancers (CRCs) found in younger patients: while many genetic changes are shared between younger and older CRC patients, younger patients are more likely to have alterations in genes involved in what is known as the Wnt signaling pathway, a system of communication that drives the growth, survival and proliferation of cancer stem cells.
“This pathway has had a lot of interest in CRC and other cancers as well. We found that genes associated with the WNT pathway appear to be more frequently altered in younger patients,” says Christopher Lieu, MD, investigator at the CU Cancer Center and assistant professor of medical oncology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.