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An international collaboration between the University of Oxford and other European institutions has uncovered a correlation between a rare mutation in bowel cancers and a better prognosis, raising the possibility that patients with such tumours may not require chemotherapy after surgery.

© Juan Gaertner - Shutterstock

The study focused on colorectal (bowel) cancers and examined the presence of mutations in a gene that is essential for the accurate copying of DNA when cells divide, known as DNA polymerase epsilon (POLE). As a consequence of the defects in copying their DNA, these tumours accumulate a much higher number of additional mutations than other bowel cancers – a characteristic that may explain an apparently enhanced immune response against them.

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