From Molecular Biology to Clinical Trials: Toward Personalized Colorectal Cancer Therapy

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Abstract

During the past years, molecular studies through high-throughput technologies have led to the confirmation of critical alterations in colorectal cancer (CRC) and the discovery of some new ones, including mutations, DNA methylations, and structural chromosomal changes. These genomic alterations might act in concert to dysregulate specific signaling pathways that normally exert their functions on critical cell phenotypes, including the regulation of cellular metabolism, proliferation, differentiation, and survival. Targeted therapy against key components of altered signaling pathways has allowed an improvement in CRC treatment. However, a significant percentage of patients with CRC and metastatic CRC will not benefit from these targeted therapies and will be restricted to systemic chemotherapy. Mechanisms of resistance have been associated with specific gene alterations. To fully understand the nature and significance of the genetic and epigenetic defects in CRC that might favor a tumor evading a given therapy, much work remains. Therefore, a dynamic link between basic molecular research and preclinical studies, which ultimately constitute the prelude to standardized therapies, is very important to provide better and more effective treatments against CRC. We present an updated revision of the main molecular features of CRC and their associated therapies currently under study in clinical trials. Moreover, we performed an unsupervised classification of CRC clinical trials with the aim of obtaining an overview of the future perspectives of preclinical studies.

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