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National nonprofit Colorectal Cancer Alliance is providing a total of $625,000 in grants to four researchers, including one advancing personalized treatment options for rectal cancer patients and three seeking to understand the root cause of rising colorectal cancer rates in patients under age 50.

Grant recipients include:

  • Dr. J. Joshua Smith of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center who will build on his previous research using patient-specific rectal cancer organoids to grow human-specific rectal cancer models in mice as a platform for developing personalized treatments.  
  • Dr. Robin B. Mendelson of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center who will describe the gut microbiome of patients under age of 50, comparing them to the microbiomes of older people with colorectal cancer and the microbiomes of younger healthy people.
  • Dr. Joshua Meyer of Fox Chase Cancer Center who will describe the genetic and genomic features of colorectal cancer patients young and old, and thoroughly characterize the biology of young-onset colorectal in patients under 50 years old.
  • Dr. Rosa Maria Munoz Xicola of the Yale School of Medicine will provide essential knowledge on how the APC-negative subset of colorectal cancers develop, which is crucial in the development of effective early detection tests and treatments. Xicola will also investigate whether the APC-negative subset disproportionately affects African Americans and young people.

With this funding announced today, grant awardee Dr. J. Joshua Smith intends to open avenues to developing innovative, personalized treatments for rectal cancer by creating better models for experimentation.

Nearly a third of colorectal cancer cases originate in the rectum, and the total number of cases is increasing sharply among young people. Personalized or precision treatments can improve outcomes for rectal cancer patients who have exhausted conventional treatment options.

Today's rectal cancer models are often derived from colon cancer specimens, which are different from rectal cancer specimens, or other methods that do not represent rectal cancer well.

“Once successful, Dr. Smith will fill a desperate research need—disease models for individual rectal cancers—which would provide the foundation for developing and optimizing precision treatments for patients,” said Dr. Ronit Yarden, director of medical affairs at the Alliance.

Funding provided by the Alliance is part of the organization’s continued efforts to invest $10 million in critical and innovative research.

The Colorectal Cancer Alliance is now accepting applications for its prevention research grants. The application deadline is 11:59 p.m., Monday, March 18, 2019.

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