Our vision is a world where no person will die from colorectal cancer. The major impact of our research program will be to generate a comprehensive picture of the still-mysterious colorectal cancer microbiome in cancer pathogenesis and treatment. We call our research program “OPTIMISTICC”, “OPportunity To Investigate the Microbiome’s Impact on Science and Treatment In Colorectal Cancer”. We are indeed optimistic that in five years, we will be using the knowledge of the microbiome to create new research and treatment paradigms for colorectal cancer and to improve the lives of patients with this terrible disease.
Matthew Meyerson, MD, PhD
Matthew’s research focus includes genomic analysis of human lung cancers, genome-inspired cancer drug discovery, and the cancer microbiome. One major discovery was somatic mutations in the epidermal growth factor gene, EGFR, that predict response to EGFR kinase inhibitors, a discovery that has propelled research in personalized medicine. His laboratory developed the computational subtraction approach for discovery of novel disease-causing microbes and discovered the association of Fusobacterium with colorectal cancer.
Wendy Garrett, MD, PhD
Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases
Organizations: Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health/Harvard Medical School Boston, Massachusetts
Emma Allen-Vercoe, PhD
Professor and Canada Research Chair
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
University of Guelph
Hans Clevers, MD, PhD
Professor of Molecular Genetics, University Medical Center Utrecht
Principal Investigator at the Hubrecht Institute (KNAW) and the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology.
Marios Giannakis, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor in Medicine
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Harvard Medical School Boston, Massachusetts
Robert Holt, PhD
Scientific Co-Director, BC Cancer, Immunotherapy Program
Distinguished Scientist, BC Cancer, Genome Sciences Centre
Professor, University of British Columbia, Department of Medical Genetics,
Professor, Simon Fraser University, Department of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry
Curtis Huttenhower, PhD
Curtis is a Professor of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics in the Departments of Biostatistics and Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where he co-directs the Harvard Chan Microbiome in Public Health Center. He is an Associate Member at the Broad Institute's Microbiome Program.
His lab focuses on computational methods for functional analysis of microbial communities and molecular epidemiology of the human microbiome. This includes systems biology reconstructions integrating metagenomic, metatranscriptomic, and other microbial community 'omics, the microbiome in diseases such as colorectal cancer, and its potential as a diagnostic tool and point of therapeutic intervention.
Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH
Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Director, Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center
Co-Director, Colon and Rectal Cancer Center
Director of Translational Research
Center for Gastrointestinal Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Shuji Ogino, MD, PhD, MS
Professor of Pathology, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School
Professor (Epidemiology), Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Chief Program in Molecular Pathological Epidemiology, Brigham and Women's
Associate Member, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
Laura Porter, MD
Jodi Hirschman, PhD
Jodi Hirschman is the Research Program Manager of the OPTIMISTICC project. Previously she was a Senior Scientific Writer and Product Manager at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, where she developed web content and communications for the Connectivity Map and Human Cell Atlas projects. Her interest in microbial genetics began as a graduate student exploring the regulatory pathway governing nitrogen uptake and utilization in Salmonella typhimurium. As a postdoctoral fellow she studied the role of heterotrimeric G proteins in mediating signaling in the yeast S. cerevisiae. She is thrilled to manage the OPTIMISTICC project and explore the complex relationships between bacteria and human cells in cancer.
Josep Tabernero, MD, PhD
Director of Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology
Head of the Medical Oncology Department of Vall d’Hebron University Hospital
Director of Clinical Research at Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology
Co-Director of Research Unit for Molecular Therapy of Cancer-“la Caixa” at Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology
Head of the Gastrointestinal and Endocrine Tumors Group at Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology
Director of Innovation, Care and Research, Catalonian Oncology Network. Barcelona, Spain.
Professor, Medicine Department, Universitat de Vic, Universitat Central de Catalunya. Vic, Barcelona, Spain.
Prof Fiona Powrie, FRS
Fiona is Director of the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, University of Oxford. She gained a PhD from the University of Oxford before moving to the DNAX Research Institute in Palo Alto. She returned to the University of Oxford in 1996 where she was the Sidney Truelove Professor of Gastroenterology from 2009-2014.
Fiona’s research is focused on interactions between the intestinal microbiome and the immune system and how this dialogue breaks down in inflammatory bowel disease and cancer. Her work has identified an essential role for regulatory T cells in maintaining intestinal homeostasis. She has also shown that both adaptive and innate immune mechanisms contribute to intestinal inflammation and identified the cytokine IL-23 as a therapeutic target in inflammatory bowel disease. She received the Louis Jeantet Prize for Medicine (2012), is a Fellow of the Royal Society, international member of the US National Academy of Sciences and a Governor of the Wellcome Trust.
Philip Quirke, BM, PhD, FRCPath, FRCSEd (ad hominem), FFPath (Hon), RCPI, FMedSci
Phil is Head of Pathology and Data Analytics at the University of Leeds, UK and a gastrointestinal pathologist by training with a long-standing interest in bowel cancer (BC). He contributed to improving BC surgery and its pathological assessment in the UK and around the world. He has been on the trial management groups of major national and international phase 3 trials on surgery (Clasicc, Rolar), chemotherapy (Quasar, Focus 1-4, Foxtrot) and radiotherapy (CR07, Aristotle) as well as many phase 2 trials. He also chairs the NHS pathology committee since 2006, contributing to EU guidance.
His current research interests are identifying the early steps in the formation of BCs, the role of the microbiome in causation, screening and treatment of BC, the use of molecular pathology in the treatment of BC and improving treatment pathways and clinical outcomes using big data and feed back to multidisciplinary teams to improve performance.
Cynthia Sears, MD
Professor of Medicine, Oncology, and Molecular Microbiology & Immunology
Laura Porter, MD
Laura was 43 years old, in the second year of her pediatric residency, in 2003, when she was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. She had two recurrences and in May 2006 she became cancer free after many medical interventions.
She has worked as a research/patient advocate in a variety of roles, including research advocacy, grant reviews, as a Medical Advisor for advocacy organizations, educational support, support groups, one-on-one support, and writing blogs for advocacy organizations.
As a research advocate, she served on the NCI Rectal-Anal Task Force for over 6 years, and the Patient Advocate Steering Committee. She serves on several committees with ASCO including the Onco-PCP Task Force, to incorporate primary care and oncologists so the survivors have appropriate follow-up, once treatment ends. She is on two panels with the National Quality Forum including being on the Opioid Technical Expert Panel. She reviewed grants as a patient advocate for Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) for 7 years, Conquer Cancer and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. She is a Special Government Employee at the FDA. She is currently a Co-Investigator on an international grant through Cancer Research United Kingdom, team OPTIMISITICC. She is responsible for the recruitment and management of the patient advocates on the project.
Anita Mitchell Isler
Anita was diagnosed with IV colorectal cancer at 41 years old. After learning more about her disease and family history she was determined to try to save others from this mostly preventable disease.
Her advocacy started at her children’s school, when she started a Dress in Blue Day to build awareness about the disease and guidelines. This is now held across the country on the first Friday in March.
She is a tireless advocate for colorectal cancer patients. She is the founder of Washington Colon Cancer Stars, a 501c3 which focuses on education for prevention and patient support. She has received various national awards for her work including Prevent Cancer Laurel of Advocacy Award, Colorectal Cancer Alliance (CCA) Visionary Award, National Colorectal Cancer Round Table (NCCRT) Blue Star award and local Rotary Self above service awards.
She has volunteered for CCA as a buddy for 14 years and is a FCRC research advocate.
You are likely to find her wearing the Polly Polyp costume giving tours through the colon or sitting beside a newly diagnosed colorectal cancer patient. In her spare time, she is helping to raise 3 stepchildren in Woodinville Washington and enjoys spending time with her three grown children.
Candace Henley, CPN
Candace is an accomplished Foundation Executive Director with significant experience in community outreach and patient education. Superior record of successful community service and engagement. Candace is a 14-year colon cancer survivor who works to help other cancer survivors make sense of the disease as well as publicly share her story of a challenging battle with a positive attitude and faith that inspires others to never give up. Her greatest fight was against the tragic turn of events that her life took after her cancer diagnosis, which overwhelmed her, robbed her of hope, tested her faith, and threatened her with defeat. Her story will make you sad, angry, cry and cheer because it's an incredible example of perseverance and strength.
Candace advocates for “Removing Barriers for Colorectal Cancer Screening Act (H.R.1070 — 113th Congress (2013-2014), 114th Congress (2015-2016), and reintroduced H.R.1017 - Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2017 115th Congress (2017-2018). A Lobbyist for Right Scan Right Time, more specifically “Access to Medical Imaging” asking Congress to enact policies to save lives by expanding patient access to existing imaging technology which is a vital part of the early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of disease.
After years of advocating, Candace identified a need for grassroots awareness and education of colorectal cancer in communities of color and medically underserved communities, she started the Blue Hat Foundation in 2015. The organization utilizes community partnerships with healthcare providers, physicians, and hospital systems to deliver the message of the importance of getting screened and created and organized a faith-based colon cancer awareness campaign, Blue Hat Bow Tie Sunday, now in its 8th year. Candace has shared her story with national audiences on The Steve Harvey show, and with Katie Couric. She has contributed to several articles regarding colorectal cancer and has several articles written about her cancer journey and her tireless advocacy.
Barry Stein, B.Com., B.C.L., LL.B.
Barry sits on the Board of Directors of several corporations, not-for-profit organizations and foundations including Colorectal Cancer Canada, From Testing to Targeted Treatments (FT3), Exactis Innovation, Donald Berman Foundation, Tikva Children’s Foundation and Anzie Accessories & Design Inc.
He is a member of the Board of Directors (Observer) of Quebec Clinical Research in Oncology (Q-CROC) and a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Personalized Healthcare Innovation Network (CPHIN). He is also a patient advisor to Alberta’s O2 Oncology Outcomes Real World Evidence Project, and an advisor to the clinical trial navigator program of Catalis Clinical Trials network (Quebec) .
Barry is the past president and a Director of the Coalition Priorité Cancer au Québec. He is a founding member of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer’s National Colorectal Cancer Screening Network (NCCSN). He is also currently the past chair and a member of the IQVIA Advisory Council for the Advancement of Health in Quebec.
As the president and CEO of the Colorectal Cancer Canada (CCC) he actively represents the interests of cancer patients and speaks regularly to medical professionals, industry, government, and patient groups across Canada and Internationally about colorectal cancer, Patient Values and Preferences in Health Technology Assessment, Clinical Trials and Real World Evidence, Young Adults with Cancer, Personalized Medicine and Companion Diagnostics, Biosimilars, Colorectal Cancer Screening, Foods that Fight Cancer and other CCC programs and research projects.
Carlos Hue, PhD
Carlos has a degree in psychology and pedagogy from the University of Madrid and a doctorate from the University of Barcelona. He has worked as a psychologist in the Department of Social Services of the Regional Government of Aragon from 1976 to 1999. Since that year and until 2015 he worked as an advisor in the Ministry of Education of the same government. Simultaneously for ten years he has taught University professors at the University of Zaragoza and other universities in Spain and Latin America.
Since 2000 he has specialized in emotional intelligence, giving multiple courses, workshops, conferences and talks to officials, doctors, judges, nurses, businessmen and patients. He published two books with the title: ‘Emotional thought: a method for developing self-esteem and leadership’ and ‘Teachers’ wellbeing and emotional thought’.
In 2003 he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and in 2006 with other patients founded the Europa Colon Spain association in which he has held the post of vice president for fifteen years. As a representative of this association, he has attended different meetings and congresses on aspects of cancer, participating actively in them. In recent years he has also been participating as a patient in several international investigations.
Lee Jones, MBA
Lee was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer in March 2004, and since undergoing several rounds of chemotherapy and a liver resection in July 2006 has been cancer free. Lee has a BA in Psychology and an MBA in Finance and had a successful executive career in government, banking, consulting, and not-for-profit organizations.
To help others to survive and thrive after a cancer diagnosis, Lee became active with Fight Colorectal Cancer as a research advocate and became a member of the Georgetown Oncology Institutional Review Board (IRB). Also, he is a patient advocate member of the SWOG Survivorship Committee and the PCORI Clinical Trials Advisory Panel (CTAP), is on the Boards of the Cancer Action Coalition of Virginia (CACV), the Ruesch Center (Georgetown University) and the Cancer Policy and Advocacy Team (CPAT) of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, has been a peer research proposal reviewer for ASCO, PCORI and the DOD, and is a member of ASCO, the Colorectal Cancer Roundtable and the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM). Lee has collaborated on several projects sponsored by The Friends of Cancer Research, including defining tolerability, reporting adverse events, and tightening exclusion criteria, and has been a speaker at Ruesch Center, AAADV, CPAT and NCCN conferences.
I am a bowel cancer survivor. In 2000, I was diagnosed with a Dukes stage 2 bowel cancer in transverse colon following an emergency presentation with a rectal haemorrhage.
I was born in the Cambridgeshire Fens in the East of England, I went to school in the Midlands, and am a Business graduate from Coventry University. I now live near Harrogate in rural North Yorkshire, UK. I had a career in industry and owned my own lighting design and distribution company for 20 years which I sold in 2015.
Since my operation I have acted as a ‘friend’ to others who are going through similar experiences with bowel cancer. A role that I get immense satisfaction from.
I am currently a Patient Advocate on the NHS England Bowel Screening Service: RIDAC Committee (Research Innovation and Development Advisory Committee). The Gene First Patient Advocacy Group which is an organisation looking into identifying free cancer DNA in bodily fluids (blood, faeces, and urine) again with the aim of producing a commercially viable early screening test for a variety of difference cancers. I am also part of the ‘Continuum Life Sciences’ research project into long term cancer survival. Previously I have had similar roles with Bowel Cancer Intelligence UK, Data Can and Harrogate Hospital Foundation Trust. I was also a patient representative on the committee charged with producing ‘The Clinical Advice for the Commissioning of the whole bowel cancer pathway’ for NHS England.
I now willingly give my time to try and help with the improvement of the outcome of all bowel cancer patients; I feel that I am one of the lucky ones. My personal aim is to help take the luck element out of the diagnosis and treatment of this disease.
I am married with 2 adult daughters and two grandchildren. I love travelling and seeing the world, golf, cycling, art, antiques, photography, and family history research and can trace his family back to the winning side at the Battle of Hastings in 1066!
Marielle Santos McLeod, CPN
Marielle was diagnosed with young onset Stage III colon cancer in June 2017. After completing
numerous rounds of chemotherapy is now cancer free. She holds a BA Spanish and an MHA in
Healthcare Administration and has worked in the healthcare field for 13 years.
At the time of her diagnosis and treatment, she was shocked as to how little information was
available regarding colorectal cancer in young adults. After losing her job while undergoing
chemotherapy, she made it her mission to bring awareness to this disease that almost claimed
her life. She began her career as a Certified Bilingual Patient and Family Support Navigator at
the Colorectal Cancer Alliance in June 2018. While at the Alliance, Marielle has helped
collaborate with the Latino Outreach Program and oversees both the Buddy Program and Blue
Hope Financial Assistance Program.
Our grant addresses the gut microbiome which consists of microorganisms including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Together, they form a community called the microbiota or microbiome, which differs from organ to organ and person to person. Scientists have shown that these microorganisms have important
roles in maintaining human health, but they can also play a role in the development of disease – including cancer.
To meet this Grand Challenge, we are focusing on two parts. The first part is an atlas of the colorectal cancer microbiome, across time and space. The goal is to understand how genetics and lifestyle risks impact the development of the colon cancer microbiome, and how this microbiome varies in populations. We will also examine the location of the microbiome within the colon cancer—how the microbiome is connected to cancer, immune and other human cells.
The second part is to investigate what happens when we try to treat the microbiome. Here the interactions between the microbiome and the immune system will be studied, and we will assess how current colon cancer treatments affect the microbiome. We will also analyze innovative new treatments that either treat the colon cancer microbiome or replace it with a healthier microbiome.
We have assembled a unique international team of physicians, scientists, and patient advocates to address these important and challenging questions in six separate work packages. The members of our team have led the way in understanding the biology of colon cancer, in general, and the colon cancer microbiome. We believe that we are the right group, at the right time, to address these important questions.
Researchers from our team have discovered that unique populations of bacteria not found in the normal colon are present in colorectal cancers and pre cancers. These bacteria, also known as the colorectal cancer microbiota or microbiome, are found in cancers within the colon and in colon cancers that have spread, or metastasized, to other organs.
By the end of the project we hope to have a greater understanding of the microbiota’s relationship and impact on the risk, diagnosis and spread of colorectal cancer. We also hope to identify novel treatment strategies by manipulating the microbiota, and to gain insight into the impact of the microbiota on treatment and survivorship in people with colorectal cancer.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA, is a world leader in adult and pediatric cancer treatment and research. Our oncologists and cancer researchers …
Harvard School of Public Health brings together dedicated experts from many disciplines to educate new generations of global health leaders and produce …
Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, is one of America’s Top Hospitals. … accelerate discoveries that improve human health. BWH RESEARCH …
Johns Hopkins, founded in 1876, is America’s first research university and home to nine world-class academic divisions working together as one university.