November 5, 2018

New funding for bowel cancer research

The Irish Cancer Society is proud to announce that it has recently granted scholarship funding to Rebecca O’Brien, Trinity College Dublin, for research into rectal cancer.

Rebecca explains: “Colorectal (bowel) cancer is cancer of the large intestine or rectum and is the third most common cancer in Ireland.

“Thirty percent of colorectal cancers occur in the rectum. Rectal cancer patients are treated using chemoradiation therapy (CRT) which uses drugs (chemotherapy) and radiation (radiation therapy), followed by surgery.

“While CRT is helpful for some patients, many don’t receive benefit, meaning their surgery may be delayed, which may have a negative impact on outcomes.

“Unfortunately, there are currently no tests to tell doctors which rectal cancer patients will benefit from CRT.

“Our immune system is important in fighting cancer but it can also be involved in tumour development and patient response to treatment.

“Previously, we found that proteins from the ‘complement system’, a pathway involved in the immune response, are active in colorectal cancer cells and are higher in cancer cells that are resistant to radiation.

“In this study, we will use tumour and blood samples from rectal cancer patients to identify if these proteins can tell doctors which patients will benefit from CRT.

“We will also investigate the relationship between these proteins and other immune cells to understand how immune cells affect response to CRT.

“This will help tailor patient treatment, reduce the side effects of unnecessary treatment and improve survival.”