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RCSI to lead €6 million study to improve treatment for colorectal cancer patients

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 10:34
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The project will focus on colorectal cancer that has spread from the colon to other parts of the body (metastatic colorectal cancer, mCRC)

RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) is leading an international team of scientists on a major research study, COLOSSUS, which aims to provide new and more effective ways to classify and treat patients with colorectal cancer. The project will focus on colorectal cancer that has spread from the colon to other parts of the body (metastatic colorectal cancer, mCRC).

Professor Annette Byrne
Professor Annette Byrne

“Currently, there are limited treatment options for patients with microsatellite stable RAS mutant (MSS RAS mt) colorectal cancer when they develop resistance to existing therapies,” said study lead, Professor Annette Byrne, Associate Professor, RCSI Dept of Physiology and Medical Physics and RCSI Centre for Systems Medicine. “COLOSSUS will identify new ways to classify patients with this form of metastatic colorectal cancer which will enable our research team to identify new treatment strategies in this difficult-to-treat patient population.”

The project will focus on a genetically defined form of colorectal cancer which is incurable once patients develop resistance to existing therapies. The ultimate aim of this new project is to better classify subtypes of this condition and deliver new personalised treatments and improved patient outcomes specifically for this patient sub-group.

The team has secured approximately €6 million in competitive non-exchequer funding for the COLOSSUS project, which is supported by the European Commission's Horizon 2020 programme. The project will run for five years and formally commenced this month, with the project meeting taking place at RCSI in Dublin, Ireland.

The COLOSSUS consortium will study patient samples and apply advanced multi-omic computational modelling approaches to identify new MSS RAS mt specific subtypes. This strategy will predict patient response and enable the design of more targeted and personalised treatments. Newly described MSS RAS mt classifiers will be validated as novel patient stratification tools within the COLOSSUS trial, a multicentre clinical study for advanced MSS RAS mt mCRC patients which will be conducted across Spain, Germany and Ireland.

COLOSSUS involves 14 partners from eight countries and brings together a multi-disciplinary team with expertise in cancer immunology, systems biology, computational modelling, bioinformatics, ‘omics analysis, clinical oncology/pathology, pre-clinical research, medical imaging, clinical trials, health economics and patient engagement.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in Europe with an estimated 420,000 cases and 150,000 related deaths (2012). Metastatic colorectal cancer is a complex disease with high prevalence, substantial human cost and significant economic impact, both in Europe and globally. Of total colorectal cancer cases, it is thought that approximately 50-55 % involve RAS mutations, the form of mCRC addressed in the project.