The project will explore observations already made in the lab, and builds on work previously funded by us. This suggests that a certain gene, known as BCL-3, may be a useful marker for response to chemo and radiotherapy. The project will work with both 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional cell culture models.

The research team

The new student will be supervised by Professor Ann Williams at the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Bristol.

Why study BCL-3 in rectal cancer?

From their observations of BCL-3, the team consider that it could have a role in preventing the death of cancer cells when treated with chemo-radiotherapy. Their aim is to understand the mechanism by which the cells are protected from cell death.

They will use clinical samples and population based studies to see whether the interactions of related genes could explain why current treatments fails some individuals. This will enable doctors to better identify the individuals who will respond to chemo-radiotherapies and will ultimately improve the treatment of all patients diagnosed with rectal cancer.

Why is it important to study BCL-3 in rectal cancer?

Rectal cancer occurs in the lower bowel, just above the anus, the rectum. It is one of the most common forms of bowel cancer.

Currently patients diagnosed with rectal cancer will undergo chemo-radiotherapy before surgery with the aim of reducing the size of the tumour in order to make the surgery more effective. Responses to this vary widely, with up to 40% of people gaining no benefit at all from this therapy. This puts them through needless and aggressive treatment to no benefit and delays lifesaving surgery.

There is an urgent need to develop a better understanding of why some patients don’t respond so that they can be treated earlier and, ultimately, new treatments can be found for them.