Research and research advocacy are critical components in the fight to cure colorectal cancer. In alignment with this notion, Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC) is committed to advancing research and research advocacy by funding research grants, assembling working groups of expert researchers, training research advocates, and publishing research.  

In partnership with the Collaborative Group of the Americas on Inherited Gastrointestinal Cancer (CGA-IGC), Fight CRC awarded the Early Career Award to Timothy Yen, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology at Loma Linda University Faculty Medical Group. The aim of Dr. Yen’s research award is to advance the quality of care for patients and their families by enhancing provider-patient communication of familial colorectal cancer risk in those with advanced polyps through the use of integrated electronic health records.

Timothy Yen, MD, Early Career Research Award

Approximately 25% of all colorectal cancer cases meet the criteria for high familial risk. Unlike hereditary colorectal cancers that are a result of inheriting a mutated gene from a biological family member, familial colorectal cancers are a result of family members demonstrating similar behaviors (i.e. diet, activity, environment) resulting in similar risks for developing colorectal cancer. Unfortunately, many patients and primary care providers are unaware of the multiple guidelines used to identify high familial risk of colorectal cancer and how that designation may impact screening guidelines. For example, there is a general understanding that a family history of colorectal cancer increases a patient’s risk of colorectal cancer; however, many individuals are unaware that a family history of advanced precancerous polyps also increases a patient’s risk of colorectal cancer. Dr. Yen’s research will help address this important gap in communication between patients and their health care providers, to improve quality of care for patients and their families at increased risk for colorectal cancer.  

To address the communication gap between patients and health care providers regarding familial colorectal cancer risk, Dr. Yen has introduced a pilot program using integrated electronic health record intervention at his home institution, Loma Linda University Faculty Medical Group. This program allows for gastroenterologists performing colonoscopies to have a more standardized, streamlined template for communicating familial colorectal cancer risk and making appropriate follow-up recommendations after the detection of advanced polyps. Since implementing this pilot program at the beginning of 2023, Dr. Yen has observed an approximate 30% increase in the number of times an endoscopist will update records to communicate familial colorectal cancer risk after discovery of an advanced polyp. To continue to improve the quality of patient care and communication, Dr. Yen is working to address the limitations of this intervention by discussing the current workflow with both endoscopists and patients in order to maximize the use of this program.    

Patients wanting to learn more about their familial risk of colorectal cancer are encouraged to learn their family’s cancer history, refer to our resources about familial risk, and consult with their primary care providers or gastroenterologists.  

This research grant, as well as others, are supported by generous donors who give toward Fight CRC’s annual Climb for a Cure event and those who designate that their donations to Fight CRC go directly to research.  

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