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Supporting Innovative Research

The Alliance’s mission is to end colorectal cancer in our lifetime. By supporting innovative colorectal cancer research by top doctors and scientists, we take important steps toward realizing our vision — a world free of this disease.

Click on a type of research below to see who is using our funding to accelerate treatment, prevention, and a cure. 

Research Focus: Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer

Dr. Kimmie Ng, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

The Role of the Microbiome and Immunity in Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer

Study Description: Dr. Kimmie Ng is investigating how the microbiome is different in the very youngest colorectal cancer patients compared to those in their 30s, 40s, and over 50 years old, as well as compared to healthy young individuals. She will then examine whether those differences in the microbiome lead to worsening tumor growth and weakened immunity against the cancer in mouse models of young-onset colorectal cancer. As the director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at Dana Farber Cancer Center in Boston, Dr. Ng is uniquely situated to ask and answer these questions. The knowledge will then be used to discover new ways to change the microbiome to improve immune response against colorectal cancer, and develop more precise ways to screen and treat people at different stages of life.

Dr. Joshua Meyer, Fox Chase Cancer Center

Differentiation of Early-Onset Colorectal Cancer

Study Description: Dr. Joshua Meyer is investigating the genomic differences between young-onset colorectal cancer and those diagnosed at 50 or older. His research asks if colorectal cancer in a younger person and an older person is the same disease or distinct, requiring a different treatment approach. In his pursuit of an answer, Dr. Meyer has made important discoveries that are beginning to provide clarity. He and his team examined the specific changes in an important oncogene, KRAS, and found differences between younger and older patients, as well as differences between colon and rectal cancer patients.

Dr. Robin Mendolsohn, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Increasing Incidence of Young Onset Colorectal Cancer: Is the Answer in the Microbiome?

Study Description: Dr. Robin Mendolsohn is gathering new insight on the cause of young-onset colorectal cancer by collecting data on exposures, including diet and the environment. She and her team are determining whether the bacteria in the gut (the microbiome) plays a role in the development of this disease. The investigators are hopeful that this research will have implications on colorectal cancer prevention, as the make-up of the microbiome could potentially be changed with diet.

Dr. Rosa Munoz Xicola, Yale School of Medicine

A Novel Subtype Enriched in Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer

Study Description: Dr. Rosa Munoz Xicola is investigating characteristics about a novel type of colorectal cancer that appears in 25% of young-onset colorectal cancer patients. Her work will allow for more effective treatment in this population. Young-onset colorectal cancer patients are currently given the same types of treatment as patients with later-onset colorectal cancer, even though clinical characteristics differ. Understanding the molecular features that drive these colorectal tumors will help establish new therapeutic strategies. 

Abhijit Rath, PhD - University of Connecticut Health Center

Identifying novel genetic determinants of early-onset colorectal cancer

Study Description: Dr. Rath will investigate the possibility of genetic mutations that cause Lynch-like syndrome (LLS). Patients with LLS present with colorectal cancer at an early age but do not have the hallmark genetic mutations seen in Lynch syndrome, the most common genetic cause of CRC. A preventive course for the families of those with LLS is lacking. The research team will address this gap by identifying genetic risk factors that could lead to these young-onset colorectal cancers. This will be the first systematic effort to address the concerns of these patients, and the findings could improve their diagnosis and treatment.

2022 Chris4Life Colorectal Cancer Alliance Early Career Investigator Award

V. Liana Tsikitis, MD, MCR, MBA, FACS, FASCRS - Oregon Health & Science University

Changes after fiber intake on the colonic mucosal microbiome and metabolome

Study Description: Dr. Tsikitis will investigate the relationship of the gut microbiome (the microorganisms that live in the human intestine), and the onset of colorectal cancer before the age of 50. Her team’s previous research showed a difference in the microbiome of people with precancerous polyps and those without polyps. They found that those without precancerous polyps had a tendency to eat more fruits, grains, and fermented foods. They believe this is due to these foods being high in fiber. Therefore, this study will evaluate if fiber can be used as a way to prevent precancerous polyps from forming.

2022 Chris4Life Colorectal Cancer Alliance Pilot Award

Dr. Benjamin Weinberg, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center

A Comparison Study of Intestinal Microbiota and Molecular Profiles of Colorectal Cancers in Young and Older Patients (COSMO-CRC)

Study Description: Dr. Benjamin Weinberg aims to identify the differences in the microbiome of young-onset colorectal cancer and those 50 and older to identify certain bacteria that could be used as targets for new therapies for patients with advanced disease. The study analyzes remaining patient samples to identify certain high-risk bacterial stool profiles that may be used to identify young patients at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.

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