Cancer in the large intestine is more likely to spread if there is a mutation in three particular genes, a study shows.

The finding, published in the U.S. scientific journal Cancer Research, could lead to the development of more effective drugs to prevent bowel cancer from spreading, according to researchers at Kanazawa University and other entities.

Bowel cancer is the second leading cause of death among cancer patients in Japan, following lung cancer. It typically spreads to the liver. Surgery is often an option, but the prognosis is not good if the cancer is found to have metastasized in the liver.

Five genes believed to be linked with carcinogenesis were studied in mice to determine which of them would likely develop metastasis through mutation.

The research team was led by Masanobu Oshima, a professor at the Cancer Research Institute of Kanazawa University who specializes in genetics.

The researchers confirmed that metastasis is likely to occur in mice with a mutation in three specific genes.

Although the research has been confined to rodents, the same mechanism is thought to apply to humans.

If new drugs are developed that prevent the mechanism from gaining a foothold, there is a good chance that cancer genome treatment tailored for each patient based on gene mutation information will prove effective, the researchers said.