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Content : Summary
Posted on Monday, May 07 @ 17:09:17 EEST by admin
Research Activities
A functional relationship between inflammation and cancer has been recognized for many years. Epidemiological studies indicate that approximately 15% of all malignancies can be attributed to infectious agents, such as viruses and bacteria that are able to evade clearance by the immune system and establish a state of chronic inflammatory imbalance.  For example, infection with hepatitis B (HBV) or hepatitis C (HCV) virus is linked to chronic hepatitis which accounts for more than 80% of cases of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the 3rd leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the world.  In addition, approximately 5% of all colorectal cancers develop in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, particularly ulcerative colitis, which is attributed to a combination of genetic pre-disposition and commensal bacteria in the gut.  Morbidity due to this malignancy is especially high because it typically occurs in multiple sites and affects younger patients compared with sporadic colon cancers.

However, chronic inflammation is likely to have a much broader role in the pathogenesis of cancer.  Indeed, experimental and clinical evidence suggests that sustained (and frequently sub-clinical) inflammation triggered by chronic exposure to toxic agents and irritants or autoimmune reactions may contribute to the initiation, progression and metastasis of diverse types of human cancer, including lung carcinomas, the most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the western world. 

The scientific objective of INFLA-CARE is to characterize the molecular mechanisms underlying the powerful effects of inflammatory cells on tumor initiation and progression.  To address this goal, INFLA-CARE brings together in a unique manner the outstanding research experience and the advanced technology of the programme participants to dissect the role of the various cell types present in the tumor microenvironment and analyze the signals exchanged between these cells.  The practical benefits of this research will assist in the improved design of novel anti-cancer therapeutics and diagnostic tools to address prevention, early detection and improved management of several types of human cancer. 

INFLA-CARE research focuses on understanding the contribution of inflammation to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), colitis-associated colon cancer and lung cancer. These tumor types are characterized by high prevalence and/or poor prognosis and often develop in a background of chronic inflammatory state. At present here is scarcity of effective treatments, as highlighted by the fact that most patients with these tumors die within 3 years of detection. Prognosis for HCC, for example, is dismal, with mild HCC having just a 10% survival rate in 3 years.  There is therefore an urgent unmet need for new therapies. 

INFLA-CARE brings forward an alternative concept for cancer treatment, according to which targeting the inflammatory component of tumors may improve response to conventional therapies and patient prognosis.  This concept will be explored through the development and evaluation of immunotherapy and gene therapy approaches which will be based on the molecular dissection of the pathogenic pathways implicated in liver, colon or lung cancer. 

A major strength of the INFLA-CARE programme is the proven expertise in disease modeling. State-of-the-art pre-clinical models, in which human inflammatory conditions causing cancer are faithfully reproduced, will be used by the consortium to study interactions between the tumour and its inflammatory microenvironment and to examine the role of inflammation-activated signal transduction in liver, lung and colorectal carcinogenesis in a cell type dependent manner. The results will contribute to the understanding of molecular pathogenic mechanisms driving tumour initiation and progression in inflammatory sites.  The outcome of these evaluations will also assist the development of better disease models which will be used to further study the association between chronic inflammation and cancer and to evaluate new therapeutic strategies.

Additionally, INFLA-CARE research seeks to address the unresolved question of the early molecular events which drive malignant transformation in areas of inflammation. Examination of the cytological components of inflammatory tissue could also lead to the identification of new immune cell types which regulate host-tumour reactions in a chronically inflamed microenvironment. The acquisition of this type of knowledge should make a positive impact on the development of targeted therapeutic strategies or the definition of new disease biomarkers leading to improved prophylactic care.

 
 



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Designed by: George Savakis for Virtual Medical Lab (Faculty of Medicine - Univercity of Crete)