GICI is also very pleased to announce an award of $50,000, thanks to the generosity of the Hugh Green Foundation, to Dr Rachel Purcell of the University of Otago.
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of colorectal cancer (CRC) in the world. Dr Purcell and her team will be looking at molecular subtyping and the gut flora in relation to colorectal cancers asking the following two questions.
i) Can molecular subtyping of Colo Rectal Cancer lead to a more personalised approach to treatment and improved outcomes? CRC is a highly heterogeneous disease, with varying clinical outcomes, response to therapy, and morphological features. Currently, no molecular subtyping system, such as the one in place for breast cancer, is in clinical use for CRC in NZ, and consequently more tailored treatments based on molecular profiling are not routinely administered in NZ. Therefore, classification into clinically useful and reproducible subtypes is of utmost importance in order to implement the best available treatment regimen.
ii) How do differences in the gut microbiome contribute to CRC? In addition to validating a classification system that would improve outcome, Dr Purcell seeks to investigate the mechanisms underpinning the development of the spectrum of CRC subtypes. The human colon plays host to a vast and complex microbial community of microorganisms, and gut biome dysfunction is believed to play a role in the development of CRC. Comparison of faecal microbiomes from CRC patients and healthy control has identified particular bacterial species that are enriched in CRC, and analysis of tumour, adenoma, and matched normal tissue from the same patients found that changes in local communities of potentially interacting bacteria, so called ‘meta-communities’, are associated with different disease states.