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Colorectal Group

Executive Summary

The Colorectal Cancer Group is part of the Centre for Colorectal Disease, which was established over 25 years ago (1983?). According to the National Cancer Registry in Ireland, approximately 2,000 new Colorectal Cancer (CRC) cases are diagnosed each year. Survival rates for CRC improve with early detection, therefore efforts are needed to provide an "early warning system" for such individuals. The knowledge of cancer risk would profoundly affect the clinical management of such patients.

The main research goals of the Centre for Colorectal Disease are:

  • To achieve a more complete understanding of which biological factors drive the growth of colorectal cancer.
  • To determine if the use of different biological markers can help distinguish people at high risk of this disease.
  • To work out which subset of patients will respond to particular treatment regimes. Treatment options for colorectal patients are becoming more complex with the introduction of the new monoclonal antibody therapies, bevacizumab (Avastin) and cetuximab (Erbitux), which specifically target vascular endothelial growth factor and epidermal growth factor receptor respectively.

To carry out these research studies, we utilise our longstanding inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer databases, both established over 20 years ago and research findings are correlated with extensive clinical, pathological and survival data available on most patients. These translational research projects will be of major importance resulting in early detection of people at high risk of colorectal cancer, early medical intervention and more effective treatment of the disease.

Projects currently carried on in the group are mainly focused on the following:

  • Role of genomic instability in promoting CRC development, progression & metastasis and its effects on the response to standard cancer therapies and monoclonal antibody therapies in colorectal cancer patients using in vitro and ex vivo explant material.
  • Role of hypoxia in governing response to standard chemotherapies and monoclonal antibody therapies in colorectal cancer patients.
  • Role of oxidative stress and DNA damage in CRC.
  • Role of mismatch repair proficiency analysis in detecting familial cancer.
  • Analysis of chromosomal instability patterns in non-metastatic and metastatic CRC using array comparative genomic hybridization, and validation of novel gene alterations potentially associated with metastasis using fluorescent in situ hybridisation.
  • Timing and rates of random nuclear and mitochondrial spontaneous mutations in colorectal cancer: implications for early detection and chemotherapy resistance.

The Group maintains ongoing collaborations with National & International Collaborators: Prof. Peter Rabinovitch, University of Washington, Seattle, Prof. Larry Loeb, University of Washington, Seattle, Dr. Phillipe Anker, University of Geneva, Switzerland, Prof. Martin Tenniswood, Notre Dame, Indiana, Dr Orla Howe, Dr. Fiona Lyng, DIT, Kevin Street, Dr. Cormac Taylor, Conway Institute, UCD, Prof. Kevin Malone, St Vincents University Hospital, Dublin, Dr. Dermot Leahy, Conway Institute, UCD, Prof. Alan Baird, Vet School, UCD, Dr. Paul Walsh, National Cancer Registry for Ireland, Cork.