June 1, 2022 - Podcast

Episode 274 — Colorectal cancer, and nutrition

A new colorectal cancer study is refining how such cancers are classified and identifying new targets to develop effective therapies. IU School of Medicine’s Ashiq Masood and colleagues found that colorectal cancers do not fit neatly into the four subtypes previously ascribed to them. Instead, these tumors and their ecosystems exist more in a continuum. The researchers found common factors across all four subtypes that were associated with poor outcomes for patients. Higher numbers of certain cell types indicate patients will not do well. Masood says these findings present an opportunity to develop better treatment for patients. The researchers have been using single-cell analysis in their research, which uses technology to investigate cell variation and the different cell types within a cell population, such as a tumor. Single-cell analysis provides a much higher resolution, which was not possible before, Masood says. Their analysis showed that the presence of cancer-associated fibroblasts and tumor-associated macrophages predicted poor outcomes in patients, and therefore, they offer therapeutic targets, he says. Researchers are now working on testing if inhibiting those cell types – particularly cancer-associated fibroblasts that are known to cause resistance to immunotherapy – can provide a path for new colorectal cancer treatments.

In other news, healthy eating can help prevent illness and disease, but education is key to knowing how to accomplish that goal, according to a series of three studies from IU Kokomo researchers conducted among Hispanic and Latino community members. The first study focused on the relationship between supplements, herbs and spices and their beneficial health influences among the two communities. Researchers found that herb and spice consumption was defined by country of origin and varied according to age range. The second study focused on the relationship between a person’s food intake, environment, demographics and acculturation and disease. It was conducted through cooking sessions with Hispanic and Latino residents, where researchers gathered information on their eating and cooking habits, garnering interest in learning about how to incorporate vegetables into their meals and replacing fried dishes with healthier versions. The third and final study looked at the effects of food insecurity and dietary intake. The goal is to create well-designed interventions that help improve nutrition consumption and knowledge about nutrition to decrease disease risk, says IU Kokomo lecturer Kim Mossburg. While the studies focused on the Hispanic and Latino communities, Mossburg says some similarities from their results can be found in other cultural groups. Future research will include a formalized study featuring a randomized control trial for three groups of Hispanic, Latino and white residents, measuring the effects of the pesco-vegetarian diet along with the supplements curcumin and ginger on microbiome diversity and inflammatory markers.