Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are at increased risk of developing colon cancer, and inflammation is also thought to play an important role in non-IBD related colorectal cancer (CRC). Inflammatory mediators therefore represent a promising source of novel clinical targets for improving colon cancer therapy.
1. The role of IL-23 and Th17 cells in CRC
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths world-wide, for which a variety of genetic and environmental risk factors are known to exist. One molecule that is known to promote CRC in mouse models of disease is the Th17-family cytokine IL-23. In human CRC, levels of IL-23 are similarly elevated but it's function in disease progression remains poorly understood. In this project, we aim to uncover the mechanistic role(s) of IL-23 and Th17 cells in human CRC tumours. Insights from these studies will hopefully inform the development of novel diagnostic assays and therapeutics for CRC, particularly focusing on subsets of patients that have poor prognosis.
2. Host microbe interactions in inflammation- driven cancer
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a heterogeneous disease of the intestinal epithelium that is characterised by the accumulation of mutations and a dysregulated immune response. A growing body of literature now also illustrates that this is accompanied by an “oncogenic” CRC-associated microbiota, but whether this dysbiosis is a functional hallmark in or merely a bystander effect of disease is not clear. The aim of this project is to identify changes within the microbiome during colon cancer progression alongside their functional consequences using sequencing-based assays of the microbiome and host in model systems.
3. Investigating how TGFb and Fibroblasts drive poor-prognosis Colorectal Cancer