Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the world and the second leading cause of death worldwide. In 2018, over 1.8 million new cases were diagnosed, and roughly 900,000 death were due to the disease. Oftentimes colorectal tumors arise from intestinal stem cells, and these intestinal stem cells as well as colorectal cancer cells have been found to express a receptor for an important molecule called acetylcholine.
Recently, Dr. Chunxing Zheng found that a population of immune cells in the intestines produce acetylcholine, especially in the context of colorectal cancer. Now, his goal is to determine whether these specialized immune cells—a subset of “helper” T cells—contribute to the development of colorectal cancer through their production of acetylcholine. Specifically, he is investigating how these T cells regulate intestinal inflammation and if they can directly induce malignant transformation in intestinal stem cells. This will provide new knowledge regarding how acetylcholine-producing cells regulate colorectal cancer progression and should pointe the way toward the development of novel immunotherapy approaches for this disease.
Projects and Grants
The role of ChAT-expressing T cells in intestinal homeostasis and cancer development
University Health Network (Canada) | Colorectal Cancer | 2020 | Tak W. Mak, Ph.D.
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