Colorectal Cancer Research Projects
MOON SHOTS PROGRAM
Early detection and disease monitoring
Colorectal cancer screening by colonoscopy reduces mortality. However, this approach is costly, invasive and dependent on individual compliance. As a result, just two-thirds of targeted individuals undergo these screenings at appropriate intervals. The Colorectal Cancer Moon Shot team is developing a blood-based diagnostic test to screen for the presence of colorectal cancer in a non-invasive manner. This test, which relies on tumor-specific signatures called biomarkers, will also be used to monitor the progression of a patient’s disease during their treatment.
We’re using cutting-edge approaches to better understand the molecular basis of malignant and pre-malignant colorectal cancer. This knowledge will improve patient survival by enabling the development of high-performing early detection approaches and more effective targeted therapies. Our efforts on this front have resulted in the establishment and validation of four molecular subtypes of colorectal cancers. This subtyping system will be exploited to better define prognosis and integrated into clinical tools and strategies to benefit patient outcomes. For instance, we’re using this information to identify subtype-specific therapeutic vulnerabilities, which can then be examined for their “druggability” in our powerful preclinical models.
While immunotherapies have offered improved treatment outcomes for some cancer types, these agents have not provided a satisfying response for the majority of colorectal cancer patients. To better leverage the benefits of immunotherapy in our patients, we’re developing personalized approaches through vaccines and cellular therapies. Both of these treatment strategies are tailored to the genetic makeup of individual patient tumors. We’re also optimizing checkpoint inhibitor strategies through our neoadjuvant platform, in which patients are given checkpoint inhibitor drugs prior to surgical resection of their tumors. This platform will determine whether this approach offers treatment benefits to patients and will guide future strategies by providing our researchers with specific information regarding how tumors respond to immunotherapies.