Targeting cancer stem cells improves survival in certain kinds of colorectal cancer

August 16, 2018

Dr. Derek JonkerAn international clinical trial led by Dr. Derek Jonker found that a drug that targets cancer stem cells improved survival in patients with a specific form of colorectal cancer. Cancer stem cells make up a very small part of a some tumours. However, they can repeatedly duplicate and give rise to all the cell types in a tumour, and may help cancer spread to other parts of the body or resist treatment. 282 patients with advanced colorectal cancer were recruited from 68 centres around the world. They were randomly assigned to take either the drug Napabucasin, which targets multiple pathways in cancer stem cells, or a placebo. The study published in The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology showed that while the drug did not improve survival among the general population of patients, it did improve survival (from 3.0 months to 5.1 months) in people with a molecular marker called pSTAT3 in their cancer. Further studies will examine STAT3 as a target for treating this kind of colorectal cancer.

Authors: Derek J Jonker, Louise Nott, Takayuki Yoshino, Sharlene Gill, Jeremy Shapiro, Atsushi Ohtsu, John Zalcberg, Michael M Vickers, Alice C Wei, Yuan Gao, Niall C Tebbutt, Ben Markman, Prof Timothy Price, Taito Esaki, Sheryl Koski, Matthew Hitron, Wei Li, Youzhi Li, Nadine M Magoski, Chiang J Li, John Simes, Dongsheng Tu, Christopher J O'Callaghan

Funding: Cancer clinical trials at The Ottawa Hospital are possible thanks to generous support from the community for cancer research The Ottawa HospitalThis study was also supported by the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute and Boston Biomedical.

The Ottawa Hospital: Inspired by research. Driven by compassion 

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s largest learning and research hospitals with over 1,100 beds, approximately 12,000 staff and an annual budget of over $1.2 billion. Our focus on research and learning helps us develop new and innovative ways to treat patients and improve care. As a multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, we deliver specialized care to the Eastern Ontario region, but our techniques and research discoveries are adopted around the world. We engage the community at all levels to support our vision for better patient care. See for more information about research at The Ottawa Hospital.

University of Ottawa: —A crossroads of cultures and ideas

The University of Ottawa is home to over 50,000 students, faculty and staff, who live, work and study in both French and English. Our campus is a crossroads of cultures and ideas, where bold minds come together to inspire game-changing ideas. We are one of Canada’s top 10 research universities—our professors and researchers explore new approaches to today’s challenges. One of a handful of Canadian universities ranked among the top 200 in the world, we attract exceptional thinkers and welcome diverse perspectives from across the globe.

Media Contact

Amelia Buchanan
Senior Communication Specialist
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Office: 613-798-5555 x 73687
Cell: 613-297-8315