A/Professor Stephanie Brown

Bowel Cancer Research

‘Investigation of Carcinogenesis pathways in colitis-associated colorectal cancer’

University of Tasmania, Tas.
Awarded 2013-2016

Co-funded by the Rotary District 9830

“Patients suffering from ulcerative colitis are at an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.”

Researcher Profile

Sarron grew up in Horsham in Western Victoria. After completing high school in 2006 he began studying science at the University of Adelaide. Sarron graduated with a BSc with a major in microbiology and immunology in 2010. Curious about work in medical research, he commenced study as an Honours student with the School of Paediatrics and Reproductive Health at the University of Adelaide based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Sarron was particularly interested in disorders of the immune system so he chose to investigate coeliac disease. His project focussed on the immune proteins called cytokines found in the small intestine of patients with coeliac disease and their ability to regulate intestinal function at the cellular level. During this time he had the opportunity to work with exciting new techniques in molecular biology and enjoyed working on his project immensely. Sarron graduated in 2011 with a first class Honours.

After the completion of his Honours Sarron realised that he would like to continue his postgraduate studies into inflammatory disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. He found an interesting potential project with Dr. Raj Eri working with Winnie a novel animal model of chronic inflammation and began a Masters in Biomedical Science with the University of Tasmania. During this brief period he has been involved in helping to characterise the changes in the intestinal nervous system in Winnie that occur as a result of inflammation. Soon after commencing his Masters Sarron was awarded an Australian Rotary Health PhD Scholarship and transferred to a PhD in 2013.

Project Summary

Patients suffering from ulcerative colitis are at an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. Despite the long-known association between chronic inflammation and cancer development, little is yet known regarding the mechanisms by which inflammation, the NLRP3 inflammasome has been identified in several recent studies as having a critical role in development of colitis-associated colorectal cancers. However, evidence suggests that activity of the NLRP3 inflammasome may either promote or suppress colorectal tumour growth. We therefore aim to further investigate the mechanisms by which NLRP3 regulates the progression from chronic colonic inflammation to colities-associated colorectal cancer. In order to do so, we first intend to develop chronic colitis. Once we are able to induce cancer reproducibly in Winnie, we intend to cross-breed Winnie. Finally, we aim to compare the activity of important molecular pathways in the colitis-associated colorectal cancer induced in Winnie, with that observed in human patients with ulcerative colitis.

Supervisors: Dr Rajaraman Eri, Dr Kevin Spring & Dr Anthony Cook