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Microscopy image of a mouse colon with chronic inflammation and flat tumors (Picture: R. Batlle).

Olga Torres Foundation grants funding to a project on colon cancer at IRB Barcelona

Postdoctoral researcher Raquel Batlle, member of the Signalling and Cell Cycle Laboratory led by Ángel Rodríguez Nebreda at IRB Barcelona, will conduct a project called "Contribution of p38 MAPK signalling to colitis-associated colorectal tumorigenesis" over two years. This project has obtained one of the 60,000-€ grants given by the Olga Torres Foundation in late 2014.

One of the best-documented associations between chronic inflammation and tumorigenesis is colorectal cancer in patients that suffer from bowel inflammation.

Given that one of the main functions of p38α protein is the regulation of inflammatory mediators, the study of this kinase as a possible therapeutic target in tumour processes related to inflammation is highly attractive.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease, both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s colitis, are at increased risk of developing this type of cancer.

In a recent article, Ángel R. Nebreda’s group described how p38α is essential to maintain the health of the intestinal epithelium, regulate the severity of colitis, and act as a colon cancer suppressor.

The principal objective of this project is to examine how p38α regulates colorectal tumorigenesis associated with colitis. The results will unravel the role of p38α and its effectors in the biology of cancer, as well as the interaction between epithelial cells and the tissue, with the aim to estimate its value as a therapeutic target or as a diagnostic indicator.

This project has the potential to open up new perspectives of colorectal cancer associated with colitis and the possibility to consider p38α MAPK signalling as a new therapeutic strategy.

The Olga Torres Foundation (FOT), a non-profit private organisation, gives these 2-year grants to projects dedicated to the study of cancer and its relation with immunological alterations.