Scientists have established how bowel cancer turns aggressive, leading the way for potential new drug treatments, it has been revealed.
Researchers in Cardiff and Glasgow are behind a study which showed how a particular protein stimulates tumours, making them more likely to spread.
The protein called AKT is triggered when another, called Pten, is faulty and coincides with a third protein known as APC.
The authors of the research identified AKT as a strong lead for drug development to treat bowel cancer.
Professor Alan Clarke, a Cancer Research UK scientist at the Cardiff School of Biosciences, said: "We now have a model of how bowel cancer progresses.
"This has given us a clearer picture of how bowel tumours actually grow and provides scientists with crucial information for drug design to slow down or stop the spread of the disease.
"We now know that the protein kinase AKT is a real lead for drug development to target aggressive intestinal cancer, which is something we didn't properly appreciate before."
Cancer is caused by uncontrolled cell growth and division.
Cancer Research UK, whose team at the Beatson Institute in Glasgow also worked on the study, said that identifying key proteins which control molecular networks inside cells and establishing what happens when these proteins become faulty was "fundamental" to our understanding of how the disease develops.
Dr Lesley Walker, the charity's director of cancer information, said: "Bowel cancer is one of the most common diseases in the UK and it is much more difficult to treat when it is advanced, so we welcome any research that gives us opportunities for better treatment."