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Queens University to Lead $8.3M Stratified Colorectal Cancer Initiative

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Queens University in Belfast said today it will lead a €6 million ($8.3 million) international project that seeks to investigate genes that make bowel cancer so deadly and hard to treat.

Funded by the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme, the MErCuRIC project will focus on genes that may be involved in a particularly aggressive type of colorectal cancer that affects around 50 percent of CRC patients, and which has a five-year survival rate of less than five percent.

The translational study will involve a clinical trial of more than 1,000 people and will include 13 partners across Europe and the UK, including Pfizer and other representatives from industry.

"Our research has identified two key genes that are contributing to the aggressive spread of colorectal cancer," program coordinator Sandra van Schaeybroeck, of Queens' Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, said in a statement.

She said the study partners will continue to advance knowledge about the genes and disease by "developing and conducting a clinical trial that targets the products of these two genes in patients with metastatic or aggressive colorectal cancer."

University of Oxford Professor Tim Maughan, one of the partners in the project, said the study potentially could lead to "new approaches to treat patients who have what is essentially an incurable disease."

The MErCuRIC project partners will use stratified treatment regimes and develop non-invasive monitoring and detection systems to improve clinical decision making for CRC patients.

They will use next-generation sequencing to discover genetic biomarkers that can be used to develop personalized treatments, particularly by identifying which patients benefit most from specific treatments.

The consortium includes partners in Ireland; the UK; Spain; Belgium; France; Italy; and the Czech Republic.