Colon and Rectal Cancer Research

Dr. Wen Wee Ma explains how phase 1 clinical trials lead to better treatment options for advanced gastrointestinal cancers.

Investigative Approaches

Any new treatment undergoes years, even decades, of study and clinical studies, which involve people, encompass the final phases of cancer treatment research. Participating in a clinical study may be an important treatment option for many patients, who may be among the first to benefit from a new drug or therapy. About 50 percent of Roswell Park patients are eligible for a clinical study. Whether or not you choose to participate is entirely your choice. Learn more about studies involving colorectal cancer.

On the Horizon

  • TheraSphere: Roswell Park is laying the groundwork for providing TheraSphere, a type of selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) delivered by microscopic glass beads. This treatment would be available through a clinical trial. It could add a second treatment option to the method we offer now, delivering SIRT via plastic beads.
  • LC Beads: Our researchers are also evaluating the benefits of a drug delivery system called LC Beads for treating colon cancer that has metastasized to the liver. LC Beads injected into the blood vessels that feed the tumors pack a one-two punch. They block blood flow, starving tumors of oxygen, and they deliver tumor-killing chemotherapy drugs. Roswell Park currently uses LC Beads to carry the drug Adriamycin to neuroendocrine tumors and tumors that originate in the liver.
  • Personalized therapy: We are a leader in developing treatment programs that are individualized to each patient depending on the patient and tumor characteristics. Our Center for Personalized Medicine facilitates interaction with our clinical team to provide this state-of-the-art treatment planning.
  • Isolated liver perfusion: We are taking steps toward offering isolated liver perfusion, which delivers high doses of chemotherapy directly to the liver, while limiting the exposure of healthy tissue. Few centers in the country offer this treatment, which Roswell Park researchers hope soon to provide through a clinical trial.

The Way Forward

In the past decade, Roswell Park offered 94 clinical trials for gastrointestinal cancer patients. Dr. Iyer stresses the importance of choosing a high-volume cancer center.

We are pioneering more effective treatments and prevention measures, providing patients with more options to maximize their chance for a cure.

Some areas of current research include:

  • Novel biologic targeted therapies: Our researchers are looking at ways to block signals between cancer cells. The agents being studied include sorafenib, sunitinib, everolimus and others that target PI-3 kinase, mTOR, VEGF, FGF, PDGF, c-Met and other pathways.
  • New combinations of therapies: Combining treatments in new ways shows promise as we evaluate the effectiveness of combining novel biological therapies with regional treatments directed to the liver, such as transcatheter chemoembolization or Y-90 labeled spheres.
  • Decreasing toxicity of current treatments: Our researchers are exploring ways to make existing treatment more tolerable, such as by combining beta-blockers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with chemotherapeutic agents.
  • New techniques to evaluate treatment effectiveness: With some new therapies, the aim is to kill the cancer cells or to decrease the blood supply to the tumor. We need to find ways to measure how effectively we’ve accomplished that. Roswell Park is studying dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI to monitor blood flow to the tumor and measure tumor death.
  • Non-invasive methods to predict response: Patient response to treatment is evaluated using the CellSearch System, which measures circulating tumor cells, and other validated assays that measure soluble proteins in a small blood sample.