Targeting metabolism for individualised rectal cancer treatment: Development of an omics-led predictive signature of chemoradiation therapy response and novel neoadjuvant therapeutic strategy

Cancer of the rectum is one of the most common cancers in Ireland and worldwide. Patients with rectal cancer are commonly treated with chemoradiation therapy (CRT), which is a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, to shrink the tumour before undergoing surgery to remove the tumour. CRT has been shown to improve survival rates of patients and reduce the chances of the tumour recurring. Unfortunately, many patients do not respond to this treatment as their tumours are resistant, and these patients unnecessarily go through this therapy, which can delay their surgery and increases the chance of their tumour growing. Unfortunately, there are currently no tests that can tell doctors which rectal cancer patients will benefit from CRT. Being able to predict before treatment begins, which patients will benefit from having CRT before surgery, and identifying new treatments to prevent tumour resistance to CRT would improve patient outcomes and quality of life. We have previously demonstrated that cancer cells that are resistant to CRT make their energy differently, which may allow these cells to escape the effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This study brings together a national and international team of scientific and medical experts. Using tumour and blood samples from rectal cancer patients attending a national cancer treatment centre, and using cells that are resistant to radiation therapy, this project will investigate how rectal tumours that are resistant to treatment make their energy. This will allow us to identify before treatment begins, whether a patient will benefit from CRT. We will also test a novel drug that we have developed, which can reduce energy in cancer cells and prevent radioresistance. This will identify a novel treatment approach for rectal cancer patients who do not benefit from CRT. This will ultimately improve patient treatments, outcomes and quality of life.

Award Date
03 July 2017
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Dr Niamh Lynam-Lennon
Host Institution
Trinity College Dublin
Emerging Investigator Awards