The genes that may predict cancer survival

*Watch the full interview in the video player above*

In the eighth of a series of interviews with young and mid-career researchers, Eloise Gibson talks to Francis Hunter about the search for new cancer drugs, and genes that may determine whether someone survives cancer if they get it.

Scientists have a list of genes they know can be involved in determining whether a person gets cancer. But what may surprise people is that there are other genes that researchers believe may help determine whether someone with cancer survives the disease.

These genes – and how they function - may help determine whether someone’s cancer is susceptible to traditional treatments such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy, which in turn may help explain the huge disparity in outcomes for people with the same disease.

Francis Hunter has been using the gene editing tool CRISPR to help figure out why treatments such as chemotherapy work so much better for some patients than others, which can have life-or-death consequences for the person involved.

Hunter, who’s based at the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre at the University of Auckland, hopes one day doctors will be able to tell patients what their chances are of being successfully treated, potentially saving some people the pain and trauma of undergoing chemo in cases where it is unlikely to work.

He and a team are also investigating new drug treatments, including one for hard-to-cure head and neck cancers.

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