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Helping healthy cells win the fight against bowel cancer

  • Researcher: Dr Louis Vermeulen
  • Institution: Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Award Amount: £243,845 for 3 years from August 2014
  • Cancer Type: Bowel Cancer
Helping healthy cells win the fight against bowel cancer
Around 1.3 million people worldwide were diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012. In the UK alone, over 110 people every day are diagnosed with the condition.*Like other cancers, the beginning of bowel cancer can be a real competition between healthy and potentially cancerous cells. Sometimes the ‘pre-cancerous’ cells have acquired changes in their DNA (mutations) which can make them grow and divide faster than healthy cells. They are then able to gain the advantage and the cancer can take hold. Dr Louis Vermeulen in the Netherlands is using his Worldwide Cancer Research grant to find ways to swing the advantage towards healthy cells. He and his team want to identify compounds which can limit the benefit held by the mutant cells. He thinks these compounds will help make sure healthy cells win the race, stopping cancer from ever getting a foothold. Dr Vermeulen thinks this strategy could be especially useful for people who are at high risk of developing bowel cancer, for example if they have inherited DNA changes which make them more susceptible to the disease. He wants to measure whether cells with these DNA changes do indeed have the advantage in the battle against healthy cells. He then wants to see if already established compounds such as aspirin might be able to take away that advantage and potentially prevent cancer before it even begins. *
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