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Colorectal Cancer

Dr. Jonathan Loree - Colorectal Cancer Research, BC Cancer
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Elissa Morrissette
Vice President, Development

As one of the most common cancers to affect both men and women in B.C., this year an estimated 3,630 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. With rates rising in young people under age 50, who are more likely to be diagnosed at advanced stages, research is critical to improving outcomes and increasing the quality of life for patients.

Colorectal Cancer is Different in Young People

Dr. Jonathan Loree, a medical oncologist at BC Cancer – Vancouver, discovered that colorectal cancer exhibits different clinical and genetic features in patients who are diagnosed under age 50. His study showed that there are distinct subgroups within the 18-50 age group that also exhibit different clinical and genetic features. This information helps clinicians create more effective, precise treatment plans.

Understanding this change in demographics is important in increasing awareness about colorectal cancer in younger patients who they may not recognize early symptoms or pursue screening.

Detecting Recurrence Using a Simple Blood Test

Dr. Loree and his colleagues at BC Cancer are continuing to uncover new solutions for people facing colorectal cancer using circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) — fragments of cancer DNA found in the blood stream, accessible via a simple blood test — to detect recurrence.

A third of patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer will have their cancer spread to their lymph nodes. While surgery is often used to treat these patients, it is not always successful and half will have their cancer return. Dr. Loree is examining whether ctDNA can be used to better select chemotherapy and improve the outcomes of patients after surgery.

The goal is to change the standard of care for treatment and reduce unnecessary chemotherapy toxicity for patients at a low risk of recurrence.

Liver Transplant in Metastatic Colorectal Cancer

 Another exciting pilot study, which Dr. Loree is hoping will lead to a future, large-scale international trial, is exploring liver transplant as a potential alternative treatment for colorectal cancer that has metastasized to the liver.

As a recipient of BC Cancer’s Clinician Researcher Start Up Competition, the funding for this study was made possible in part by the BC Cancer Foundation, and will enable Dr. Loree to assess patient outcomes, safety and interest.