Colorectal cancer is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, and one of the hardest to detect early. Maria Pia Morelli, M.D., Pd.D. of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has been working to find new ways of using biomarkers to improve the ability of medical science to predict metastatic colorectal cancer. For her work, she has been given the 2013 Fight Colorectal Cancer-AACR Fellowship, in memory of Lisa Dubow.
This one-year $50,000 grant will help allow Dr. Morelli to continue her work of discovering biomarker testing methods that will help catch colorectal cancer early, before it enters the later stages where it is too deeply entrenched to be effectively combated. It will also allow her to clarify treatments for patients.
Biomarkers are innocuous substances that can be introduced into a patient’s body which will test various body functions. The biomarkers that Dr. Morelli specializes in are those that help scientists find indications of potential cancerous growths in a patient’s colon and rectum. She has been working to refine and isolate biomarkers that will give proof-positive indications of this specific type of cancer while minimizing false positives and increasing the efficacy of detection.
Colorectal cancer indicators have become markedly more advanced in the past decade with the development of anti-epidermal growth factor receptor monoclonal antibodies, such as panitumumab and cetuximab. These antibodies have helped to improve clinical outcomes in patients that suffered from metastatic colorectal cancer without KRAS mutations, but are still far from being as precise as is truly necessary.
Scott Kopetz, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in MD Anderson’s Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology has said that more refinement in biomarkers, such as the type being performed by Dr. Morelli, is desperately needed to further augment the treatment process.
The grant money will help advance Morelli’s project which seeks to answer questions on the exact biology of colorectal cancer cellular structure. It his hoped that her data will enhance the care patients receive and increase the survival rate of colorectal cancer sufferers.
The grant was established by Fight Colorectal Cancer in memory of Lisa Dubow, a woman who was diagnosed with Stage III colorectal cancer at just 42 years of age. She helped create the organization, though was eventually claimed by the very disease she wished to help others fight.