Professor Owen Sansom

Understanding the molecular mistakes in bowel cancer

Professor Owen Sansom is Director at our Beatson Institute for Cancer Research. He and his team are investigating the molecular changes that happen in bowel cells that ultimately lead to bowel cancer.

Every cell in our bodies is constantly communicating – sending and receiving signals within the cell itself, and between nearby cells. These signals tell cells when they should multiply, and are normally tightly controlled to protect us from cancer.

Professor Sansom's research is focused on a particular cell signalling pathway in bowel cells involving a molecule called Wnt (pronounced 'wint'). This pathway is overactive in the majority of bowel cancers, meaning that the cells receive too many signals telling them to multiply, so they grow out of control to form a tumour.

Professor Sansom discovered that faults in a gene called APC, which are found in eight out of 10 bowel cancers, can cause overactive Wnt signalling. He is now trying to unpick the complex relationship between APC and Wnt signalling, to identify the specific genes and molecules that are involved.

Through his work, Professor Sansom hopes to track down the tell-tale molecular hallmarks of bowel cancer, which could be important targets for future cancer treatments.

Read more about Professor Sansom’s research on our blog.

Bowel (colorectal) cancer
Cancer biology

Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, Glasgow