History

Each year the Gut Cancer Foundation awards a grant of $50,000 in the form of a Fellowship to support outstanding graduates who are able to combine their clinical work with research, to improve the quality of life and potential survival for people living with a gut cancer.

The current recipient of this award is Dr Janet Rhodes, part of the team led by Dr Roslyn Kemp, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Otago. Dr Rhodes’ study revolves around the idea of Immunoscoring colorectal cancer tissue samples.

Study Overview and current progress

Immunoscore is a tool for measuring a patient’s immune response to colorectal cancer.  Quantifying immune responses to cancer can be used to provide a more accurate prognosis of the cancer’s stage, and consequently guide treatment plans and provide better outcomes for colorectal cancer patients.

Dr Rhodes’ work aims to ensure the Immunoscore tool is is accurate for our population whilst also working to make the Immunoscore more detailed. So far the team has succeeded in using fluorescence IHC to accurately quantify cell markers that comprise the Immunoscore. They have also used fluorescence IHC to identify the more specific regulatory immune cells expected to improve the accuracy of the Immunoscore.

Future study and it’s significance

The study has now moved on to its final stage; Immunoscoring the cohort of 500 patients.  Detailed immunoscoring will allow better delineation of patients with stage II or III colorectal cancer. Dr Rhodes’ vital research has the potential to add value to this emerging tool by improving its predictive power and refining the techniques so that it can be more easily translated to the diagnostic laboratory. The practical end-goal is more accurate prognoses and improved targeting of treatment including:

  • identifying those at high risk of relapse and
  • identifying patients in whom adjuvant therapy (surgery) is not necessary