New research

How are Gut Bacteria involved in causing Bowel Cancer?

How are Gut Bacteria involved in causing Bowel Cancer?

Bowel Cancer arises from different types of precancerous polyps in the gut. The aim of this project is to try and identify bacterial communities that are involved in the development of Bowel Cancer. This could allow us to develop better early-stage markers of disease and, more importantly, it will help us understand how bacteria in our gut are involved in initiating Bowel Cancer, so that we can design preventative therapies that will lead to lower rates of this common and deadly cancer.

Researchers at the University of Otago have planned a study to identify bacterial communities in the gut microbiome involved in the development of Bowel Cancer.

What we aim to do

  • We plan to identify bacterial communities that are specific to certain types of polyps and, importantly, identify the functions of these bacteria that may play a role in initiating Bowel Cancer.
  • Then, we will test the mechanisms by which these bacteria interact with cells in the colon to cause cancerous changes

How we plan to do it

  • We will use polyps that have been collected by the Cancer Society Tissue Bank and extract DNA and RNA from them. Using cutting-edge DNA and RNA sequencing technology, we will identify differences in bacterial communities and functions between different types of polyps, and compare them to colon tumour tissue and healthy bowel tissue. This will allow us to identify bacterial functions and components that are only present in pre-cancerous lesions.
  • We will then test how these bacterial components may initiate cancer in colon cells in the laboratory and investigating changes at the molecular levels in the cells.

How your donation will help

  • Dr Purcell is looking for funds to pay for a Research Assistant’s salary to complete this research. Over a one-year period this will cost $56,296
  • From our Golf tournament last year, we have already raised $20,000 towards this project and your donation would give the project the boost it needs.

Gut Symptom Investigation – South Island Study (GutSI-SI Study)

Gut Symptom Investigation – South Island Study (GutSI-SI Study)How do South Islanders understand bowel disease and what are their experiences of accessing health care? We know that people sometimes put off getting symptoms of bowel/gut disease investigated and that this can cause delays in diagnosis and treatment. We also know that not everyone has smooth access to healthcare and an easy route through the health system. We do not currently understand as much as we need to about people’s knowledge of bowel/gut symptoms and what might prompt people to seek healthcare. We also do not have a good understanding of what happens when people do seek care for bowel/gut disease, nor do we understand why Māori have poorer outcomes when they do have bowel/gut disease. We are planning a qualitative study based in the South Island of New Zealand that is designed to investigate these knowledge gaps. The purpose of qualitative research is to examine questions in depth by, in this case, interviewing participants for about an hour face-to-face around the South Island. The sample of 44 participants will be split into three major groups;
  • those with already diagnosed bowel/gut cancers (16 participants);
  • those with other forms of bowel/gut disease (16 participants);
  • those who have no disease (12 participants)
Within these groups we will be looking for maximum variability in the sample in relation to urban/rural location, gender and ethnicity. Part of the study will have a kaupapa Māori design that will involve Māori research staff including a Māori interviewer. This aspect is designed to ensure that the way we approach the research is appropriate for Māori participants located in the South Island. The qualitative study can stand alone and will produce valuable information that is likely to be useful to doctors working with patients with bowel disease, as well as those who work in health promotion and disease prevention. We plan to follow the qualitative project with a larger quantitative survey, but to make that survey as good as it can be, we need to understand these questions qualitatively first. We will then use the qualitative data to inform the survey questions.

New Research - particularly important to Canterbury

New Research - particularly important to CanterburyCanterbury has one of the developed world’s highest rates of Inflammatory Bowel disease with one in 80 people affected. Many people go undiagnosed for many years particularly young people, which has a significant impact on their physical and mental well-being and therefore their education and work life. Better tools for the ongoing assessment and diagnosis of gut inflammation should lead directly to improved outcomes for children and adults with IBD. The Gut Foundation established in 1993, has a long-standing commitment to supporting research in the field of IBD, and have previously funded projects assessing IBD incidence rates in Canterbury. Strikingly, a more recently funded study in 2014 indicated that the number of patients diagnosed with IBD had increased by 50%. This highlights the importance of continued research in this field and underpins our ongoing commitment to support this vital work. Currently, colonoscopy with biopsy is thought to be the best method for evaluating inflammation location, extent, and severity. However, the invasiveness of endoscopic examinations and unpleasant bowel preparation treatments required is a strong drawback for the use of this procedure, especially in children. Encouragingly, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that non-invasive markers measured in the urine and plasma may be specific in detecting gut inflammation in patients with IBD. The potential of non-invasive markers to identify patients with IBD, monitor their treatment outcomes, and to assess their risk of relapse is an appealing prospect. Gastroenterologists would therefore be able to diagnose IBD at a much faster rate by eliminating the wait time for a colonoscopy. In addition, they would be able to individualise treatment by prescribing more powerful drugs to patients at risk of relapse, while patients at reduced risk would avoid these more powerful drugs. The overall objective of this project is to determine whether levels of novel markers of inflammation measured in the blood and urine will correlate with disease severity in patients with IBD. Several studies have assessed the ability of fecal calprotectin to reflect disease severity in patients with IBD. However, this marker is not sensitive or specific enough to eliminate the need for invasive endoscopic examinations. Consequently, the proposed research is vital to enable identification of novel markers of inflammation that better reflect disease severity and limit the need for colonoscopy. The proposed research represents an exciting and significant opportunity for Teagan Hoskin an experienced researcher here in Canterbury. Tegan grew up with a sibling badly affected by Chron’s disease and has witnessed first-hand the distress of Gut disease. You too can support this research, visit to donate today.Read More...