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Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common cancer in the world with 150,000 new cases each year. At initial diagnosis, 20% of patients have distant metastasis, thus the cancer has spread to other parts and organs of the body and is not confined to the colon or rectum. 25% to 30% of patients with early stage disease will develop metastasis consequently. The subsequent duration of life for metastatic untreated patients is a heart-aching number accounting for a maximum of 9 months.

Currently, using combination therapy approaches, overall survival lengths has been extended to 20 months. The standard of care for metastatic CRC is surgery followed by chemotherapy. There are several approved chemotherapeutic drugs, one of which is the administration of 5-fluorouracil (5FU) with oxaliplatin given mainly through the course of 12 month,s biweekly. The response rate for this treatment is 29%.

Therapy based upon the biology of an individual’s tumour rather than established histopathologic and anatomic classification is an approach that promises to optimise the use of existing therapies. Gene expression analysis offers the potential to measure genome-wide activity which can be used to predict response to current treatments. My project aims at creating a predictive model that can determine which patients are sensitive or resistant to different chemotherapeutic treatment.

In the future, if we, or any other research group, succeeded in reaching this purpose, we would be able to identify the 71% of patients who may not benefit from chemotherapy. I think modifying the standard of care for CRC will have impactful results on the life of patients and this is our ultimate goal as cancer researchers.

Blog posts

A unique year for a UNIQ experience!

Tiffany Chan and Claudia Fraser were two of our fantastic tutors who helped ensure the UNIQ Oncology Summer School happened in the midst of a pandemic.

Extending outreach to a global audience

A week ago I found myself on Skype to a group of school students in Houston, Texas. Not something I had expected to be doing this year, but a lot of this year is not as I expected...

I can’t see you; I can’t hear you; how do I engage you?

Working from home is a lonely business, so the chance to meet and engage people with our science was too good to pass up. Schools and work places are not the only places that have to operate remotely. Across the UK clubs, societies and groups are using the internet to keep their interests alive.

Prostate Cancer – March 2020

For prostate cancer awareness month, we focus on the work of Dr Valentine Macaulay.

Brain tumours; like finding a needle in a haystack?!

For Brain Tumour Awareness Month, Vanessa Johanssen talks about her work and how their research has helped to find brain tumours when they're small enough to treat.