Mutations that cause oesophageal adenocarcinoma (OAC) have been mapped in unprecedented detail, unveiling good news that more than half could be targeted by drugs currently already in trials for other cancer types.

The news, which was published in Nature Genetics, comes from Cancer Research UK researchers at the University of Cambridge, who used whole genome sequencing and whole exome sequencing to map mutations in OAC, the main subtype of oesophageal cancer in England.

The findings could provide options not currently available to patients beyond standard chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery and help to give more personalised therapies.

Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, Cancer Research UK funded scientist and lead researcher at the MRC Cancer Unit, said the “research could also provide better options for older patients, who are more likely to develop oesophageal cancer, and who are often not fit enough for current treatment options.”

She continued: “This research could completely shift the paradigm from giving oesophageal cancer patients the same chemotherapy that we know doesn’t always work, to more targeted treatments based on individual characteristics of a patient’s cancer.

“We are now designing clinical trials that provide real-time analysis of patients’ genes to offer patients the best treatment based on their own genome.

In the study, driver mutations for OAC were found in 99% of patients and more than 50% were sensitive to drugs (CDK4/6 inhibitors) already in clinical trials for breast cancer.