Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researchers are Grand Challenge winners for a project that aims to discover how certain microbes inside the body lead to colorectal cancer and influence a patient’s response to treatment, Cancer Research UK announced today.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Matthew Meyerson, MD, PhD and Wendy Garrett, MD, PhD, also of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, are co-principal investigators of the OPTIMISTICC project. The Grand Challenge competition is an international funding initiative with the purpose of tackling some of the biggest questions facing cancer research.
Other Dana-Farber team members include Marios Giannakis, MD, PhD;Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH; and Shuji Ogino, MD, PhD, MS.
Colorectal cancer is estimated to be the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the U.S. in 2018 and in recent years there has been a rise in the number of cases seen in younger adults. The team’s objective is to understand the difference between a healthy microbiome and a microbiome associated with cancer and find ways to manipulate this collection of microorganisms to better prevent and treat cancer.
“Microbiome research has already thrown up a range of unexpected findings,” Meyerson said. “With new genomic technologies, we can map the microbiome in incredible detail, so now is the right time to be investigating this phenomenon of cancer.”
“The colon is the most densely populated microbial environment on the planet,” said Garrett. “We’ve assembled a global team with a lifelong interest in the microbiome and its huge impact on human health. This is an enormous undertaking. It is indeed a grand challenge and we as a team have been given a fantastic gift, and with that great gift comes an enormous responsibility to make a difference for colorectal cancer patients.”
The team now joins a growing community of Grand Challenge researchers, which first launched in 2015 and already includes four international teams announced in 2017.
Edward Harlow, PhD, member of the Grand Challenge advisory panel and Professor of cancer education and research at Harvard Medical School, said, “I’m not aware of any funding opportunities anywhere in the world that can begin to integrate this many international cancer experts on projects of such clear importance. These teams have been brought together to tackle many of the biggest challenges we currently face in cancer research. We can see from the progress already achieved how powerful it is to support collaborations of this scale.”
Iain Foulkes, PhD, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of research and innovation, said, “Individually, these research teams are among the best in the world in their respective fields. By bringing them together across borders, Grand Challenge is enabling these teams to think bigger and establish new and exciting collaborations. The scale of the funding reflects the opportunity we see in harnessing their ability to understand and tackle cancer.”
Further information on Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge program can be found at: http://cruk.org/grandchallenge