EBI Clinical Primer helps to improve diagnosis of bowel cancer
2 April 2015
Adam Chambers, a surgical trainee in the East Midlands Deanery, is used to applying research evidence in his day-to-day surgical care of patients. Adam believes that basic scientific research is the vital initial step that ultimately leads to a change in clinical practice, and that’s why he welcomed an opportunity to develop his academic interests through an EBI Clinical Primer scheme alongside continuing his surgical training.
Adam is aiming to specialise in bowel (colorectal) surgery with the goal of practising as a Consultant Colorectal Surgeon. A large proportion of Adam’s clinical work involves patients with bowel cancer. As a result he has developed an intense interest in what drives the development and progression of colorectal cancer. Having already gained basic research experience while completing an MSc in Wound Healing and Tissue Repair, he wanted to build on the knowledge and skills he had acquired by undertaking a formal laboratory based period of research.
During his EBI Clinical Primer fellowship, with the Colorectal Tumour Biology Group run by Professor Ann Williams and Professor Chris Paraskeva (School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Bristol), Adam examined the role of inflammation and the response of bowel cancer to radiation.
Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the UK. In a particular type of bowel cancer called rectal cancer some patients are treated with combined chemotherapy and radiotherapy before they have surgery, to shrink their tumour. However the chemo-radiotherapy is not always successful meaning that for some patients they receive an ineffective, unpleasant treatment delaying surgery unnecessarily. Therefore there is an urgent need to be able to identify those patients that will most benefit from pre-operative chemo-radiotherapy (CRT). Adam’s research aimed to understand why some patients do not respond to the CRT. His research project showed that a protein called BCL-3 plays a role in promoting cancer cell survival after radiotherapy in the laboratory. When the function of this protein is inhibited, the rate at which the tumour cells are killed by irradiation is significantly increased. These exciting results suggest that targeting BCL-3 function may sensitize tumour cells to RCT and importantly that the level of BCL-3 expressed by a tumour could be used to predict which patients will most benefit from pre-operative CRT.
This may lead to fundamental changes in the treatment of bowel cancer in the future, with stratification of patients to which therapy they receive, the effectiveness of therapy and possibly new chemotherapies.
To learn more about the Colorectal Tumour Biology group at the University of Bristol, visit here: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/cellmolmed/research/cancer/cruk-ctb.html
Please visit the EBI Website to learn more about the funding available from the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute, including Clinical Primers.