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Targeting microbes that might cause bowel cancer

Earlier this month, Cancer Grand Challenges announced the five teams being awarded £100 million to take on some of cancer’s toughest challenges. The Bowelbabe Fund has committed to giving £5 million to one of the teams, PROSPECT, to uncover the reasons behind the global rise in bowel cancer in younger adults. 


Dame Deborah James was 35 years old when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer in December 2016, which would be classed as early-onset (cancer occurring in people under 50). 


Early-onset bowel (or colorectal) cancer is a cancer type that’s on the rise – each new generation faces a higher risk of developing early-onset bowel cancer. But it’s not well understood, and we don’t know for sure what’s causing it. The work that team PROSPECT is doing aims to improve our understanding.

Deborah's family says "Sadly, we know only all too well that early-onset bowel cancer is on the rise. It was one of Deborah’s final wishes to establish the Bowelbabe Fund, to find a way of ensuring in the future there are no more Deborah's. 

“To help support some of the finest researchers on a global programme that could lead to a major shift in the identification – and eventually eradication – of this disease represents a perfect way for us as a family to help achieve Deborah’s final hopes and dreams.”

Team PROSPECT and the early-onset cancers challenge they’ll be tackling 


To figure out what’s causing the incidence of early-onset cancers in adults to rise, team PROSPECT will line up data on life experiences, genetic changes and generational trends. They’ll also use what they find out to develop ways of preventing these cancers, which they plan to test in the US, UK and India


“The alarming rise of colorectal cancer in young people around the world demands immediate action. Only by pushing the boundaries of our individual fields can we move quickly to identify opportunities for preventive interventions that can benefit younger generations” - Professor Andrew Chan, co-team lead of PROSPECT 

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