DPhil, Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics
Controlling tumour evolution in colorectal cancer by manipulating the physical & chemical properties of the tumour microenvironment
Colorectal cancer poses a significant clinical challenge: it is the 2nd most common cause of cancer death in the UK. A patient’s cancer will change over time by cell-level evolution. The direction of this evolution is guided by the microenvironment surrounding cancer cells. In colorectal cancer, there are tumour regions with an impaired blood supply & a corresponding reprogramming of cancer cell metabolism. The unique physical & chemical properties of these regions hinder the survival of most normal human cells, yet promote invasiveness, metastasis & therapy resistance in colorectal cancer. My research aims to understand how these unfavourable properties of the microenvironment guide the evolution of aggressive behaviours in colorectal cancer. I study this question using a panel of over 100 human colorectal cancer cell lines & xenograft models of colorectal cancer.
How could this research ultimately benefit patients?
Through defining how the tumour microenvironment guides the evolution of colorectal cancer, I aim to identify molecular signatures of this process. Such molecular signatures could be useful biomarkers for predicting the evolution of a patient’s colorectal cancer, for example, in response to treatment. In addition, I aim to define factors that can disrupt properties of the tumour microenvironment that promote the evolution of invasiveness, metastatic potential & therapy resistance. These factors could offer therapeutic targets for manipulating the evolution of a patient’s colorectal cancer towards a less aggressive state.
Before starting my DPhil, I studied Medicine at the University of Oxford for 4 years. During my studies, I intercalated a BA in Medical Sciences during which I undertook a research project with the Swietach lab in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics. My research investigated how the pH in the environment surrounding cells regulates the intracellular signalling that promotes pathological cell growth.