EGFR (Epidermal Growth Factor Receptors) are involved in the development and progression of many types of cancer and bowel cancer (colon carcinoma) in particular. So-called anti-EGFR antibodies are used in the treatment of bowel cancer patients, to inhibit EGFR. However, for reasons that are not yet clear, not all patients benefit from this treatment. This could be due to the fact that EGFR is not only found in the tumor cells of bowel cancer patients but also in the immune cells surrounding the tumor. This was the main finding of a study conducted by a research team led by Maria Sibilia from MedUni Vienna’s Institute of Cancer Research and recently published in leading journal Gastroenterology.

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Dr. Stegall’s Comments: Targeting EGFR is a great idea, as cancer cells have growth receptors on their surface which stimulate their continued growth and progression. The challenge here is that healthy cells – including those of the immune system – appear to also have these same growth factor receptors. Figuring out a way to target these receptors only on cancer cells, and not on healthy cells, is the challenge that lies ahead of us. Thankfully, until we figure it out, we have many other ways of targeting cancer cells and inhibiting their growth.