A mutation in a gene causes resistance to cancer treatments, a new study in the journal Nature Medicine finds.

Researchers at the Hospital del Mar in Spain found a slight mutation in a cancer gene called epidermal growth factor receptor causes resistance to colon cancer treatment using a drug called cetuximab, which is an antibody that attacks the EGFR.

The mutation happens during the disease, which stops the drug from being effective and causes tumors to grow. Researchers believe this evidence will assist a large number of patients since colorectal cancer is the second most frequent tumor and cetuximad is a drug that is typically prescribed to treat this type of cancer.

The study also found the tumors formed in the mutation respond to a treatment with a similar drug, called panitumamab, which is also obtainable for clinical use. This additional finding is of specific importance for those with colon cancer that currently use cetuximab, but show now response of improvement, as it increases the patients options of treatment and provides another medical alternative.

Colon, or colorectal cancer is a cancer that starts in the large intestine or the rectum, and according to the American Cancer Society, it is the leading cause of cancer related deaths in the United States, however as with other forms of cancer, early detection increases the possibilities of successful treatment.

Clara Montagut, an associate Oncology doctor at Hospital del Mar, believes that these findings will provide further insight to those cancer patients who have found success with other drugs besides cetuximab.

“The discovery of this mutation may explain, at a molecular level, the benefits obtained by some patients with colon cancer treated with panitumumab and the inefficiency when treating with cetuximab,” she said in a statement.

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