Fight Colorectal Cancer is hosting the 3rd annual symposium on early-age onset colorectal cancer (EAO CRC) on June 24-25, 2021 called the Rally on Research: EAO CRC. You may be wondering what the Rally on Research is all about, and how it came to be. We’re here to break it down for you.

Prioritizing Early-Age Onset Colorectal Cancer

Inaccurately coined an “old man’s disease,” colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death for men and women in the United States. While rates of incidence (new cases) and mortality (deaths) among older adults have been decreasing, rates have been steadily rising in those younger than age 50 since the mid-1990s. In a recent publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers predicted, "for the age group 20-49, colorectal cancer was estimated to become the leading cause of cancer-related deaths by 2030." However, the rising rates of early-age onset colorectal cancer (EAO CRC) are not unique to the United States. 

According to Rebecca Siegel, MPH, a cancer epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society (ACS), “Early-age onset colorectal cancer is increasing in at least nine countries across three continents where rates are stable or declining in older adults, signaling changes in early-life exposures that increase cancer risk.” Sigel continued, “The rising burden of early-onset colorectal cancer is a global phenomenon that requires coordinated international efforts not only to discover the cause through research but also to destigmatize the disease and increase awareness of symptoms in order to save lives through earlier detection”

In May 2018, the American Cancer Society lowered their CRC screening guidelines from age 50 to 45 for average risk patients. The guideline change was the result of a modeling study resulting from collaborative efforts of Fight CRC, the American Cancer Society (ACS), Memorial Sloan Kettering in the United States, and Erasmus University in the Netherlands. Members of the patient advocacy community and Dr. Dennis Ahnen were crucial in propelling this guideline change.

This recommendation was an important action in acknowledgment of the rise in EAO CRC. Yet Fight CRC continued to hear from the CRC community the urgent need to understand why more young people are developing colon and rectal cancers, many without a family history of the disease. As the voice of patients, Fight CRC decided to take the lead to address EAO CRC in partnership with experts on the global stage.

Convening the community

On February 1st, 2019, Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC) convened a working group of over 40 experts from the United States, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Spain in Denver, Colorado to examine research initiatives specifically aimed at investigating sporadic (not due to a family history or genetic predisposition) early-age onset colorectal cancer. Experts came from a wide range of disciplines, including researchers, oncologists, gastroenterologists, public health professionals, and patient advocates to determine the prioritized risk factors to be studied in EAO CRC.

The workshop was a fundamental step in aligning efforts to address the rising incidence in early-age onset colorectal cancer. Looking ahead, attendees indicated the need to publish findings from the meeting in a peer-reviewed journal, to continue the conversation by formalizing

quarterly and yearly work group meetings, to seek funding for innovative studies, and collaborate with policymakers and funders to identify future areas of research.

Establishing the Early-Age Onset Colorectal Cancer Research Workgroup

Fight CRC was called upon to continue to convene the working group. Following the initial meeting, a formal workgroup of nearly 80 global experts was formed. In the first year, the EAO CRC Workgroup published a summary of the initial meeting and a commentary in Gastroenterology, reconvened in smaller groups at conferences such as Digestive Disease Week (DDW), and began working on projects focused on potential risk factors, clinical public health, and practice-based research.

2nd Annual EAO CRC Symposium

To continue the momentum and grow the engagement in the workgroup, Fight CRC began planning a symposium, co-led by EAO Workgroup member Dr. Jose Perea and the medical community from the Jiménez Díaz Foundation Hospital in Madrid, Spain, who had initiated the first EAO symposium, a year prior in Spain.

Due to COVID-19, Fight CRC virtually co-hosted the 2nd Annual Early-Age Onset Colorectal Cancer International Symposium in June 2020. Over 500 individuals from 17 countries registered for the symposium. During this symposium, thought leaders, researchers, clinicians, and patient advocates from around the globe continued discussing the latest research on EAO CRC and exploring a collaborative path forward

Discussions emphasized a need for research efforts that are collaborative, global, and integrated. The symposium attendees also called for increased diversity among study populations, including racial/ethnic, geographic diversity, and a diversity of disciplines and roles involved. 

Furthermore, attendees requested spaces to host deeper discussions of particular topics. In Fall 2020, Fight CRC began hosting a Research Learning Series for members of the EAO Workgroup to analyze and explore EAO CRC research topics during two-hour sessions and further build the network of experts involved in the workgroup.

Rally on Research

In planning for this year’s symposium, our vision grew bigger. Fight CRC and Dr. Perea felt it was essential to include the patient experience in discussions and build a bridge between researchers, clinicians, and advocates. To move the needle in EAO CRC research and identify the best interventions to address this urgent issue, we felt it was imperative to create an engaging space to listen and learn from one another. 

To reflect our vision and growth, we renamed the annual event to Rally on Research. In 2021, we will rally to continue discussing EAO CRC and paving a collaborative path forward, and a path towards a cure.

Join us on June 24th and 25th for 2021’s interactive Rally on Research. Registration is free because we need your voice at the table! 

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