Scientists have today announced a radical new approach to how we deal in future with bowel cancer fully endorsed by Bowel & Cancer Research.

We understand too well that current treatments tend to be indiscriminate. We also are very aware of the toll that undergoing treatment can take on an individual. Couple this with the fact that treatment can too often fail to work, or cease to work after a time, makes it vital that we better understand how bowel cancer develops within the body and stay one step ahead of this.

Professor Paul Workman, from the Institute for Cancer Research likened cancer to a deadly and "nasty" version of Darwin's tree of life, where the branches represent the various different paths that a tumour is using to develop. Current treatment may cut off up to 90% of the branches, but the remaining branch is now resistant to treatment and more vigorous. According to Professor Workman

Cancer's ability to adapt, evolve and become drug resistant was the cause of the vast majority of deaths from the disease and the biggest challenge we face in overcoming it.

Understanding the evolutionary drivers within the cancer will enable doctors in the future to understand the cancer's likely "next move" and head this off before it starts. Developing blood tests to identify markers in the blood will help this process.

This approach has required a fundamental shift in scientific thinking, from one where cancer is fought and vanquished to one where cancer is managed over the longer term.

The impact on patients could be immense, seeing the end to harsh and sometimes ineffective treatment regimes with real progress being made within the next decade.

Bowel & Cancer Research has already been investing in this evolutionary approach. Our funding for a study at Barts Cancer Centre, looking at how the cells in a polyp evolve, could help us to predict even earlier who is at risk of developing bowel cancer in the first place.