How does what’s going on in your tummy affect your chances of getting bowel cancer?

If we condense Dr Annika Seddon’s latest research project into one basic premise, that’s it – and it will change lives.

Dr Annika Seddon has recently been granted $110,000 from the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation to study how interactions between the gut microbiome and immune cells combine to influence the progression of colorectal or bowel cancer.

A postdoctoral fellow at the University of Otago, Christchurch, Dr Seddon says when she heard the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation was funding her research, she was blown away.

“It’s a monumental step in my research career. I just feel so privileged to have been selected.”

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world, with approximately 3,000 people diagnosed every year and 1,200 deaths. Canterbury has a higher rate than the national average.

Annika Seddon

Dr Seddon says mounting evidence suggests gut bacteria play a role in the development and progression of bowel cancer. Her research will look at how the oxidants called chloramines influence DNA methylation (changes to the chemical signature of DNA) in colorectal cells. Furthermore, it will investigate if other compounds produced by gut bacteria enhance the production of the oxidants in immune cells.

“This research could have major implications for our people and communities as we seek to pinpoint targeted therapies to help combat this devastating disease along with strategies for prevention.”

Dr Seddon is a research fellow at the University of Otago, Christchurch, in the Department of Pathology & Biomedical Science and a member of the Centre for Free Radical Research group. She has a PhD from the University of Otago and is a mum to three, the youngest just 18 months old. For more information click here. 

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