I walk with Joe Opiela and the Opiela family in memory of Adam Opiela, who passed away from metastatic colon cancer on July 25th, 2021 at the all-too-young age of 30. As part of an inpatient team, I took care of Adam in the beginning of June and then again in July. He faced many challenges during his clinical course. I was constantly impressed with his even demeanor, friendly attitude and kind interactions; we often talked about the NBA playoffs, exchanging notes and analyses. Please see his obituary to learn more about Adam. While taking care of Adam, I often felt helpless, and I certainly wish I could offer him more. Because we believe we can do better for Adam and others, we are committed to basic science and translational colorectal cancer research, hoping to make breakthroughs that will impact lives in positive ways.
The overall goal of the Sethi lab is to combine clinical observations and evaluation of patient samples with rigorous basic science investigation to yield opportunities for impactful translational advances. Our passion for investigative research is fundamentally dependent upon its power to generate a deeper understanding of human disease and ultimately improve patient care. We are particularly committed to defining the fundamental mechanisms underlying colorectal cancer with the hope that such insight will translate into new mechanisms to prevent and treat cancer.
Colorectal cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer-mortality worldwide and is responsible for an alarming increasing trend in incidence among younger individuals. The intestine is a special organ in that it is the most rapidly renewing tissue in our body; the gut lining is replenished every 2 to 5 days. Maintaining the intestinal lining therefore requires stem cells to constantly give rise to mature cells to perform their specialized function before dying. Disruption of this natural maturation is a hallmark of colorectal cancer. Our lab is focused on defining the molecular components that block proper maturation in cancer cells. We also have designed a unique discovery platform to help us screen thousands of drugs to find the specific agents that overcome this block in maturation. We strongly believe the next generation of therapeutics will restore proper maturation in colon cancer cells, reprogramming them to live out their natural life cycle. We have also noticed that there are certain features that are conserved in the initiation of colorectal cancer. We aim to study the genetic and molecular basis of hereditary and therapy-associated polyposis to bring new insight into this work. Using innovative mouse models and patient-derived organoids, we hope to define the clinical and functional significance of these conserved events.
In addition to our research efforts, we are dedicated to the mentorship of the next generation of physicians and scientists. We believe in their potential to change the world. Please visit the Sethi Lab Website for more details.