Perry Pickhardt, MD, professor in the Department of Radiology and Chief of Gastrointestinal Imaging, recently secured a multi-institutional multi-million dollar NIH R01 grant to continue his colorectal cancer and CT colonography work for the next five years. The prestigious National Institutes of Health Research Project (R01) grants are a testament to the impact and quality of Pickhardt’s work.
The aim of the project is to gain insight into what dictates the progression of certain colorectal polyps into colorectal cancer. Almost all colorectal cancers develop from adenomas or serrated polyps. These polyps affect 30-50% of the adult population but only develop into cancer in 6-7% of people by the age of 80. The molecular mechanisms that determine which polyps become cancerous is virtually unknown.
The principal investigators on the grant, in addition to Pickhardt, are Dr. Richard Halberg of the University of Wisconsin and Dr. William Grady of the University of Washington. The project also involves Drs. Kristina Matkowskyj and Irene Ong from the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Jerome Liang of the Stony Brook School of Medicine, and Dr. Mary Redman from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Pickhardt and colleagues will use a large series of human colorectal polyps whose growth patterns have been assessed over time using CT colonography. The growth patterns and other characteristics of the polyps such as textural analysis will be correlated with results from exome sequencing, gene expression studies, and high-density methylation arrays. All of this will be used to try to determine if the state of the colorectal polyp at formation dictates whether it is benign or premalignant. The resulting findings should help in identifying risk in certain individuals as well as making colorectal cancer more preventable in the larger population.