Stephanie Schmit, PhD, MPH, Genomic Medicine Institute, has been awarded a five-year, $3.4 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health) to investigate how differences in immunological factors drive disparities in colorectal cancer (CRC) outcomes among racially and ethnically diverse patient populations.
Among certain racial/ethnic minority populations, CRC can be less responsive to therapy and have poorer prognosis than in other populations, even after adjusting for sociodemographic factors. Research suggests that these observed disparities may be explained in part by variations in the tumor immune microenvironment (the non-cancer, immune-related cell components of a tumor). The tumor immune microenvironment includes several cell types, including tumor-infiltrating T lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell that penetrates the tumor and attacks cancer cells. However, the extent of this variability and the factors contributing to these variations remain largely unknown. The role of genetic ancestry has yet to be fully explored.