Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC) is excited to announce that the manuscript titled “A summary of the Fight Colorectal Cancer working meeting: exploring risk factors and etiology of sporadic early-age onset colorectal cancer” has been published in the August edition of Gastroenterology. Over 45 experts studying colon and rectal (colorectal) cancer in young adults participated in this effort. 

Download a copy of the summary.

Creating a Working Group: Experts Meet to Discuss Colon and Rectal Cancer in Young Adults.

In Feb. 2019, Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC) brought together researchers, oncologists, and patient advocates in Denver, Colorado to examine research initiatives specifically aimed at better understanding sporadic early-age onset colorectal cancer (EAO CRC). For nearly two days, global thought leaders met to prioritize and craft a research agenda in this area. 

Back in 2017, the American Cancer Society (ACS) researchers published research in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showing that cases of colorectal cancer (CRC) are continuing to rise in young and middle-aged adults. Based on these findings, the ACS lowered its recommended screening age for colon and rectal cancers from 50 to 45 years old. 

According to Andrea (Andi) Dwyer, Director of the Colorado Cancer Screening Program (CCSP) at the Colorado School of Public Health, “We created an approach to this meeting to figure out ways to identify and prioritize what is causing this dangerous increase in young-adult colorectal cancer. Examining data and reducing the screening age for screening guidelines is important but won’t tell us why this is occurring. It is our job to explore the “why.”

Putting Ideas into Action
The workshop was an initial, fundamental step in continuing to examine EAO CRC. Salient themes that emerged from the workshop included:

  • Strategies to engage with the National Cancer Institute and the ACS regarding funding and policy opportunities,
  • Continuing to convene and engage working group members, 
  • Taking a deeper dive into the existing datasets, 
  • Working to determine the major research priorities, 
  • And publishing the workshop summary. 

The early-age onset working group will guide future Fight CRC efforts in this area by creating a plan for the research. In addition, Fight CRC hopes that the medical and advocacy community can also use this summary as a resource to collaborate and explore the cause of early-age onset colon and rectal cancer.

Moving the needle in research

Research presented at the 2019 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference by Drs. Chris Lieu and Gurprataap Sandhu from the University of Colorado Cancer Center is a prime example of the current work being done to better understand young adult colon and rectal cancers. They looked at how long patients experienced rectal bleeding before being diagnosed in early-age onset colorectal cancer patients.

Out of 211 EAO CRC patients, more than half of the patients experienced rectal bleeding before they were diagnosed. On average, it took 271.17 days to diagnose these patients with colon or rectal cancer. These findings highlight the importance of early diagnosis. Ultimately, this can lead to earlier disease stage and better health outcomes for young colorectal cancer patients.

Check out Dr. Lieu and Dr. Sandhu’s Facebook live at ASCO discussing this research!

Drs. Dennis Ahnen and Swati Patel, also at the University of Colorado (CU) and members of the Fight CRC EAO CRC working group, conducted research indicating that EAO CRC may have different clinical, pathologic, and molecular presentations compared to colorectal cancer diagnosed in older individuals. 

According to Dr. Patel, “It’s apparent that immediate and large scale collaborative efforts are needed to coordinate research strategies to understand the causes of CRC in young patients and the best interventions to stem this alarming trend.

Also involved in the working group were researchers and public health professionals at the University of Colorado, Jan Lowery, Ph.D., MPH, Betsy Risendal, Ph.D., Elsa Weltzien, MPH, and Patrick (Judd) Blatchford, Ph.D., where the meeting was hosted.

Creating the roadmap 

Members of the Fight CRC EAO CRC working group are leading the research and working to better understand the causes of early-age onset colorectal cancer, as well as the best way to approach screening and prevention.

“Fight CRC is working hard to understand the research priorities and will work with funders and policymakers to ensure this research takes place. We want to go to our partners and say, here is the roadmap. This workgroup has created that roadmap” says Anjee Davis, Fight CRC president.

Access the working group meeting summary, on Gastroenterology.

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