SEMS researchers to investigate colon cancer

16 March 2015

Tissue becomes more stiff as cancer progresses
Tissue becomes more stiff as cancer progresses
A research grant has been awarded by Bowel & Cancer Research to Dr Nick Peake and Professor Martin Knight at SEMS, and Dr Alex Mirnezami at the University of Southampton, to enable them to study the progression of colon cancer.

As colon cancer develops and progresses, there are significant changes in the organisation of the web of proteins forming the structure of colon tissue. These changes cause tissue stiffening, which promotes the growth of the cancer.

The research group at SEMS studies an enzyme called TG2 which can cause inflammation in colon cells, and once released from the cell can also link together these proteins. Bowel inflammation can lead to cancer, and the group have seen that TG2 is abundant in colon cancer tissue, but it is not known if this has an affect on the progression of disease.

With the funding they have received, the group will examine whether the protein linking caused by this enzyme changes the organisation of the surrounding tissue, whether these changes alter how stiff the tissue becomes, and whether this makes the cancer more aggressive.

This will open the door to new therapies that block TG2 and alter tissue stiffening. Long-term, this pilot project will support a larger study to investigate how colon cancer cells change how they respond to altered biomechanical properties of the surrounding tissue as the cancer spreads. This will be the first step in developing new drugs that target both cancer cells and the surrounding tissue.
Contact:Prof Martin Knight

Updated by: Corinne Hanlon