NCI grant supports Jefferson trial to study test for colorectal cancer recurrence

Researchers at Jefferson Medical College and the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia are determining if a new test is more accurate than current methods in finding early recurrence of advanced colorectal cancer.

If they're right, they could change the face of colorectal cancer treatment.

Armed with a new five-year, $5.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, Scott Waldman, M.D., Ph.D., Samuel M.V. Hamilton Family Professor of Medicine and director of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, is leading a clinical trial of more than 2,000 patients with colorectal cancer to see if a blood test based on detecting the protein that causes traveler's diarrhea is a better early detection system than current methods.

Finding disease that has returned after treatment is key, says Dr. Waldman, to long-term survival. After initial treatment, patients periodically return to their physicians for checkups to look for recurrent cancer. If a cancer can be caught early, it stands a better chance of being removed. According to Dr. Waldman, as many as 25 percent of such patients may have isolated and potentially removable metastatic disease. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.

But current surveillance methods have not been very successful in identifying recurring cancer at an early enough stage, Dr. Waldman says, and particularly in identifying isolated cancers that have spread to other areas of the body. The currently used protein marker, CEA, is inadequate because many colon cancers don't make CEA, and typically, it starts to increase in the blood after the cancer has grown to the point that little can be done for the individual.

"We think there is a better way to do this," says Dr. Waldman. Dr. Waldman's test looks for evidence of a protein, guanylyl cyclase C, or GCC, which is expressed only by intes

Contact: Steve Benowitz
Thomas Jefferson University

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