Investigating why some bowel cancers start spreading early through blood vessels

Colorectal cancers (CRCs) spread through vascular channels to other sites, often causing death. Understanding this process is therefore extremely important.

Even without clinically detectable cancer in the surrounding lymph nodes, the process of spread may already have started. Pathologists try to identify this after surgery through microscopic examination but this is subjective and variable. In this study, we aim to investigate the relative abundance of blood vessels in and around the tumour and the presence of vascular spread through digitally scanned slides and check its impact on patient survival.

We also aim to understand the biological basis of why certain CRCs are programmed for such early spread through examination of novel tumour markers identified from existing literature and datasets of CRCs.

Controlling spread and improving survival rates

The originality will also lie in the choice of CRC cells used to be as inclusive of the various molecular subtypes of CRC. This will help develop strategies to identify at-risk patients and control the process of early spread through targeted therapy to improve patient survival and quality of life.

The research will take place in the Histopathology Division of Cancer and Stem Cells at the University of Nottingham, which is housed in a new state of the art Cancer Centre.

The researchers

This PhD studentship will be undertaken by Declan Sculthorpe, supervised by Dr Mukherjee at University of Nottingham.