A trans-institutional team of researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt University has received an $11 million Cancer Moonshot grant to build a single-cell resolution atlas to map out the routes that benign colonic polyps take to progress to colorectal cancer, the third most common cancer among both men and women in the United States.
The work entails gathering thousands of data points per cell for each participant and then transforming that information into multidimensional geographic maps that enable scientists to study interactions among tumor cells, the microbiome and the immune microenvironment.
Vanderbilt is one of only five institutions designated a Pre-Cancer Atlas (PCA) Research Center by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The four other institutions will lead similar efforts involving precancerous lesions of the skin, lung and breast.
The principal investigators leading the Colon Molecular Atlas Project (Colon MAP) are Robert Coffey, MD, Ingram Professor of Cancer Research and director of the Epithelial Biology Center at VUMC; Ken Lau, PhD, assistant professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, and Martha Shrubsole, PhD, research professor of Medicine, Division of Epidemiology. They will lead an effort to identify which people are at greatest risk for colon cancer, discover cell characteristics that could lead to chemoprevention strategies and possibly recommend changes in screening and surveillance practices.