6 Marzo 2024

Cancer research, UniTrento part of an international team

Major funding of 25 million dollars to support the study on early-onset colorectal cancers. The project has been selected by Cancer Grand Challenges. Nicola Segata of the Cibio Department is also on the team. Today the announcement of the award

Colon rectal cancer is an often-silent neoplasm, and by the time people become aware of the disease, it is often already in an advanced stage.
Its onset is due to the uncontrolled proliferation of epithelial cells of the mucosa lining the inner part of the intestine. According to estimates by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, this cancer accounts for ten per cent of all cancers diagnosed worldwide and is the third highest incidence, after breast and lung cancer.
Although there has been a decrease in the overall incidence of colorectal cancer in recent decades, there has been an increase in the number of cases in people under the age of 50. Some risk factors, according to researchers, are associated with obesity, sedentary lifestyles and improper diet. But the causes responsible for this increase are still unknown.
An answer could come from the study of an international team that will be working over the next five years to discover the mechanisms linking the early onset of the disease and test new strategies to combat this type of pathology.
The team of researchers includes, the only Italian, Nicola Segata, professor at the Department of Cell, Computational and Integrative Biology Cibio of the University of Trento and the European Institute of Oncology.
The project is called PROSPECT and has been selected along with four others by Cancer Grand Challenges, a global funding initiative co-founded by Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Institute that supports scientists around the world who come together in research teams to study innovative ways of tackling cancer diseases. The team was between 176 shortlisted teams worldwide who submitted proposals for cancer investigations. The winning teams were announced today.
The team, led by Andrew Chan of Massachusetts General Hospital and Yin Cao of Washington University in St. Louis, will receive up to $25 million to pursue the research. Nearly $750,000 will go to Cibio.
Prospect and UniTrento. The aim of the research is to develop new methods to assess the risk and prevent colorectal cancer in individuals under 50 years of age.
The selected research team consists of people from five countries around the world who will work in an interdisciplinary perspective. They range from biochemistry to oncology, from epidemiology to epigenomics, from immunology to gastroenterology.
The University of Trento will take care of the microbiology part.
'In particular,' explains Nicola Segata, 'we will focus on potential risk factors linked to the microbiome, i.e. the collection of microbes in the human body. Based on research conducted in our laboratory, we have seen that there is a link with people who have this type of tumour. But they are usually patients over 50 years old'.
Researchers at the Cibio Department have already been studying the microbiome for several years.
In this case the challenge is twofold, as Segata continues. "We want to investigate which elements anticipate the disease in younger people. To understand which intestinal and oral microorganisms may represent a potential risk factor. But we will also try to find out how these microbes can be acquired and transmitted from one person to another. Whether diet or a certain lifestyle favours them or not'. 
The PROSPECT team is funded by Cancer Research UK, the National Cancer Institute, the Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK and Institut National Du Cancer through Cancer Grand Challenges.

About Cancer Grand Challenges
Founded in 2020 by two of the world's largest funders of cancer research, Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Institute, Cancer Grand Challenges supports a community of  of over 1,200 investigators and collaborators and 16 teams around the world engaged in cancer research. It funds ambitious challenges tackled on a large scale involving multiple institutions and multidisciplinary teams.
This latest investment of USD 125 million represents the largest grant awarded to date.
More information at: