This study will investigate small packages, known as vesicles, to better understand the role that they play in assisting the spread of cancer cells around the body.

What are vesicles? Vesicles are released by bowel cancer cells and travel around the body. When they settle at other sites they are implicated in the growth of cancer cells at the site.

Using organotypic models the researchers will identify the mechanism behind how bowel cancer spreads, why and how it manifests in other sites around the body and specifically how extracellular vesicles contribute to this.

What's an organotypic model? Organotypic models are made from tissue removed from an area of the body that behaves as it would if it was still within the human body.

The researchers

The team is being led by Dr Nicholas Peake and Dr Laura Cole at the Biomolecular Sciences Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University. The study will be supported by Professor Christine Le Maitre from the Centre, Dr Stuart Hunt from the School of Clinical Dentistry at Sheffield University and Professor Alex Mirnezami from the Cancer Sciences Academic Unit at the University of Southampton.

Why study a new treatment for advanced bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer survival rates are very much lower once the cancer has had a chance to move around the body and develop in other areas, such as liver, lungs or brain. At stage IV, only 6% of patients will survive more than 5 years post treatment.

We don't adequately understand the mechanism used by cancer cells to move around the body and settle in other organs. Developing a better understanding of this is critical to the development of new treatments that can in future identify and prevent this. Because vesicles circulate in patients, they could become a useful marker in assessing whether a cancer has spread.