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How are stem cells involved in the progression of bowel cancer?

  • Researcher: Dr Kim Jensen
  • Institution: University of Copenhagen
  • Award Amount: £228,761 for 3 years from September 2013
  • Cancer Type: Bowel Cancer
How are stem cells involved in the progression of bowel cancer?

Worldwide, an estimated 1.24 million new cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed each year.  As with most cancers, the earlier it is diagnosed the more successful the treatment.  But there is still much that scientists do not understand about how it develops and this is what Dr Jensen is working on changing.

All tissues within our bodies have a small population of stem cells. These are amazing 'starter cells' which have the unique ability to multiply and change (differentiate) into a variety of other cells, depending on where they are located in the body. Dr Jensen is using his Worldwide Cancer Research grants to study bowel stem cells and how they may grow rapidly and out of control when they are in the presence of abnormal levels of growth factors, leading to cancer.

Studies using biopsies from bowel cancer patients have already indicated that levels of a molecule called Lrig1 changes during bowel cancer progression. Now Dr Jensen will be using human cells, patient samples and mice, which have had Lrig1 removed, to study in detail what Lrig1 does and how it may prevent cancer.  Dr Jensen hopes that by knowing more about how bowel cancer develops this will aid the development of better ways to diagnose patients earlier and lead to better patient care. 

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