Dr. Chou is the 2009 Lisa Dubow Research Fellow, and Dr. Xi received the award in 2008.
Dr. Xi’s research found a micro-RNA (miRNA) that made colorectal cancer cells more sensitive to 5-FU and also predicted which cells, and potentially which patients, response best to treatment with 5-FU.
Dr. Chou studied whether treating colorectal cancer cells with decitabine (DAC) could produce cancer-testis antigen in the cells and make them sensitive to immunotherapy.
Both scientists are doing work with colorectal cancer cell lines, but their research has good possibilities to be developed into treatments for people with colorectal cancer.
Knowing which patients respond best to 5-FU and then increasing its effectiveness, as Dr. Xi is exploring, could target therapy in both early and advanced colon and rectal cancer and improve their outcomes.
The cancer-testis antigen is an attractive target for immunotherapy because it doesn’t occur in normal body cells, other than in the testes. While it does arise in some cancers, its expression is limited in colorectal cancer cells. By sensitizing colorectal cancer cells with decitabine, an immune therapy treatment that targeted the cancer-testis antigen might be able to destroy those cells. Dr. Chou’s work might lead to better treatments for patients with advanced colorectal cancer harnessing the body’s immune system.
Both researchers received support from the Lisa Fund whose goal is to provide grants to promote research into treatments for late-stage colorectal cancer. Gifts to the Lisa Fund help promote this critical work.