The “microbiome” refers to the trillions of bacteria that live in our colon. Recent studies have shown that this is altered in bowel cancer, but we don't know why.

How will the microbiome be studied?

This project will find the key species of bacteria in the gut that are associated with bowel cancer and it will identify their molecular and metabolic functions.

It will do this by looking at the genes from bacteria taken from patients with early polyps and cancer.

Bowel cancer develops from polyps that grow in our bowel. Many of us will develop polyps, but not all polyps lead to cancer.
Metabolising is the process that the cells in our bodies go through to nourish, heal and maintain us as living organisms.

The team will also measure the metabolic functions of these bacteria to identify new ways that bacteria cause polyps. The aim is to determine a new test for bowel cancer that includes our microbiome and to define how it could be managed to reduce our risk of bowel cancer.

Researchers

The project is being led by Dr James Kinross, Clinical Lecturer in Surgery, Department of Biosurgery and Surgical Technology, Imperial College.

Why study the microbiome to target bowel cancer?

The project aims to uncover new mechanisms by which our gut microbiome influences the development of bowel cancer and will provide essential insights into its role in maintaining bowel health.

This will help us to gain a deeper understanding of the risk factors for bowel cancer that we already know about, such as obesity and red and processed meat consumption. This will enable us in time to deliver dietary advice that is highly personalised in term of preventing bowel cancer. 

The microbiome has also been shown to have a potentially important role in diagnosing and predicting the onset of bowel cancer, as well as affecting how effective current treatments such as chemotherapy are. Understanding it is therefore essential for the development of new personalized, cost effective prevention and treatment options for bowel cancer.

In 2016 The Freemasons’ Grand Charity agreed funding of £20,000 to support the project to assist with expensive RNA sequencing, chemical histology and mass spectrometry.

 

The Hospital Fund awarded a grant of £2,000 to support this work alongside The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, effectively ensuring that year two of this project is fully funded.