The Optimisticc team is supported through the Cancer Grand Challenges initiative. Learn more here

Our Team


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.


Research Investigators

Patient Advocates

Program Overview

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.

A Global Team

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA, is a world leader in adult and pediatric cancer treatment and research. Our oncologists and cancer researchers …


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Harvard School of Public Health brings together dedicated experts from many disciplines to educate new generations of global health leaders and produce …


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Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, is one of America’s Top Hospitals. … accelerate discoveries that improve human health. BWH RESEARCH …


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Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins, founded in 1876, is America’s first research university and home to nine world-class academic divisions working together as one university. 

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Hubrecht Institute

The institute encompasses 23 research groups that perform fundamental, multidisciplinary research on healthy and diseased cells, tissues and organisms.

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University of Leeds

The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK and part of the Russell Group of leading universities.

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University of Guelph

The University of Guelph is one of Canada’s leading innovation and comprehensive postsecondary institutions. Because there are no single solutions to the …

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Vall D’Hebron Institute of Oncology

Scientific activity at VHIO is structured across for major programs: Preclinical, Translational, Clinical Research, and Core Technologies. Each incorporates …

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BC Cancer Research

BC Cancer Research strives to improve the lives of patients through the integration of basic biomedical research, genomics, clinical trials, health services …

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