Institute scientist awarded $2M to study the spread of colorectal cancer cells to the liver

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The research could lead to new treatments for colorectal cancer, which is often difficult to treat and fatal

The Hormel Institute’s Ningling Kang, PhD, associate professor and leader of the Tumor Microenvironment & Metastasis research section, has received a grant titled “Hepatic Stellate Cell Regulation of Metastatic Growth in the Liver.” The five year, $2 million R01 award was awarded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Liver metastasis is a process where cancer cells that originated from a different part of the body spread to the liver. This grant will allow Kang’s research group to investigate how colorectal cancer cells that originated from the colon or rectum grow when they enter the liver. This research could lead to potential strategies to prevent colorectal cancer from spreading into the liver or suppress its growth in the liver.

“Due to the lack of effective treatments, colorectal cancer often spreads into the liver,  leading to death for many patients. The overall five year survival rate for colorectal cancer patients is 65% and it reduces to around 15% for advanced cancer patients when the cancer has spread into other parts of the body. Understanding how colorectal cancer colonizes the liver will help us design new strategies to treat colorectal cancer and improve the survival of the patients,” Kang said.

This project has been continuously funded by the NCI for the last 11 years and this funding will enable Kang to continue this project for the next five years. It is also the fourth time Kang has obtained a five year grant from the NCI.