Biology of Colon Cancer

Program Leader: Leonard Augenlicht, Ph.D.
Co-Program Leader: Lawrence Brandt, M.D.

Research in the Biology of Colon Cancer program (BCCP) is focused on basic aspects of the biology of colorectal cancer. This encompasses how genetic and dietary factors contribute to normal mucosal homeostasis, the perturbations that alter probability of tumorigenesis and its progression, and how this knowledge can be exploited to identify new approaches for the prevention, progression and treatment of this disease. Research is increasingly focused on the role of intestinal stem cell populations and their niches in the development, progression and refractoriness of this disease, capitalizing on the program’s development of novel genetic and environmentally-driven mouse models for these studies. As a disease of aging, there is also a focus on aging- associated changes in mucosal and stem cell functions, in particular genetic and epigenetic alterations, and in autophagic processes that are risk factors for colorectal cancer.

New studies have focused on the role of the microbiome in the development of intestinal inflammation, a precursor of colorectal cancer, and the impact of the bacterial flora on the catabolism of antineoplastic agents to toxic derivatives. There has also been an increased emphasis on translational research, especially in addressing the underserved minority populations that comprise the AECC catchment area, the Bronx. Recent new areas of research in the program encompass the intestinal microbiome, epigenetic regulation and genetic analyses of somatic mutations in colorectal cancers in the highly minority Bronx population. New to the program is the recruitment of Lawrence Brandt, former chief of Gastroenterology at Montefiore, as co-leader who brings expertise in inflammatory disease and fecal transplantation to reinforce and expand the translational aspects of the program’s research.

There are three aims of the program:

  1. To Identify Environmental, Genetic and the Niche Impact on Intestinal Stem Cell Functions in Homeostasis and Tumorigenesis,
  2. To investigate aging as a Risk Factor for Intestinal Tumors, and
  3. To address prevention and therapy: Genetics, Modulation and Translation. There are 20 program members from 11 departments who have robust peer-reviewed funding from the National Cancer Institute, as well as from other institutes of the NIH and charitable foundations to support this work.