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7th Lisa Fund Grant Awarded to Dr. Ho-Chou Tu

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Fight Colorectal Cancer is excited to announce that Dr. Ho-Chou Tu received our 7th Lisa Fund Fellowship Grant – a $50,000 award given to a late-stage colorectal cancer researcher. This award is distributed through the Lisa Fund in partnership with American Association of Cancer Research (AACR.)

Dr. Tu is a research fellow at the Children’s Hospital in Boston. She plans to use the award to determine the relationship between the Lin28A/B gene and colon cancer progression and prognosis. She hopes that her research will lead to predictive biomarkers for prognosis of colon cancer and a potential therapeutic target aimed to reduce colon cancer progression.

Dr. Tu, a native of Taiwan, did her doctoral studies at Washington University in St Louis. She then did a one-year fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering before starting a fellowship at the Children’s Hospital Boston in 2011.

Understanding Research on Lin28A/B

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The Lin28A/B gene is associated with embryonic development and is generally shut down as the body develops. However, previous work by Dr. Tu and collaborators at Dana Farber have shown that over-expression of the gene is associated with advanced colon cancers, indicating that Lin28A/B are critical factors that promote and maintain tumor malignancy.

To address this question, Dr. Tu plans to use genetically-altered mice where she can turn on and off the expression of Lin28A/B. This will allow her to determine what pathways and genetic mutations occur in mouse tumors that mimic the expression of Lin28A/B in human colon tumors.

In order to determine whether Lin28A/B may be a good therapeutic target, Dr. Tu plans to see what happens to the mouse tumors when Lin28A/B over expression is turned off.  Preliminary analysis suggests that over-expression of Lin28A/B is required for tumor maintenance and progression, so genetically inhibiting Lin28A/B in mice will tell us if it will be a possible future drug target for humans.

Dr. Tu plans to see whether her hypothesis on the importance of Lin28A/B in colon cancer is born in human colon cancers. She plans to collaborate with other researchers to conduct analysis of a large set of human colon cancer tumors to see if correlations between LIN28 expression and clinical features such as tumor grade, metastasis and mortality exist. Furthermore, the pathways and genes activated in Lin28A/B mouse tumors will be tested for their contribution in human colon cancers that progress or metastasize.

In Summary…

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There are genes (Lin28A/B) that are active in embryos but shut down as our bodies develop. Dr. Tu has found that these genes have become active in advanced colon cancers. Her research project will look at the following:

  • Genetically-modified mice where these genes can be turned off and on. She will cause colon cancer to occur in mice and then turn off the genes. If turning the genes off slows down the growth of the cancer, the genes could be a treatment target. Also, she will examine these cancers to better understand the genetic pathways utilized by these genes.
  • To see if these genes act the same in human tumors as they do in mice tumors, she will analyze a large number of human samples donated by colorectal cancer patients and housed in a partner’s laboratory. The samples are linked to a patient’s clinical information such as tumor grade and stage, type of chemotherapy given and survival outcomes. Analysis of this data will enable her to see if patients with these active genes are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage disease.

The information derived from Dr. Tu’s project could help identify new targets for future drug development – for example, if turning off these genes in a mouse makes a difference in colon cancer growth, a drug could be developed to keep the gene from being active.

Results could also show whether the genes are correlated with tumors that are most likely to metastasize, which could help identify patients who need additional treatment or closer monitoring. This type of ‘translation’ to human impact won’t happen during this project, but if the results are strong, she and her colleagues will apply for additional research support to move forward.

The Lisa Fund

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The Lisa Fund was established in 2006 by Lisa Dubow, a stage III colorectal cancer survivor diagnosed at age 42. She fought for research funding to support innovation and science. Lisa, a founding member of Fight Colorectal Cancer, credited late-breaking research with extending her life long enough to see her son grow into adulthood. In her memory, we award a grant to a researcher focused on late-stage, groundbreaking colorectal cancer research each year. We award one of the 10 fellowships by the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) – and the only one specifically focused on advanced colorectal cancer.

Learn more about the Lisa Fund & past recipients.

Donate to the Lisa Fund (100% goes to medical research)

Fundraise for the Lisa Fund

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