Clinical trial aims to improve treatment for early-stage colorectal cancer

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- There is a clinical trial going on that hopes to change the way patients with early-stage colorectal cancer are treated. Fox Chase Cancer Center is investigating a method designed for organ preservation and hopefully avoiding a colostomy bag.

There are about 45-thousand new cases of colorectal cancer a year. Traditional treatment starts with surgery then chemotherapy then radiation. The problem is where the rectum is in the body.

"The rectum is in the pelvis and there's kind of a lot of high-priced real estate in the pelvis, there's the bladder, prostate in men, the vagina and uterus in women, and all of those kind of in this tight space," said Dr. Jeffrey Farma, the Division Chief of General Surgery.

That means removing enough tissue to prevent the cancer from returning is tough.

If there is a recurrence the next surgery could be a colostomy, which closes off a portion of the rectum and requires a bag on the outside of the body for excrement.

Doctors at Fox Chase Cancer Center have designed a clinical trial for early-stage colorectal cancer to address these issues.

"If we give them some chemotherapy upfront that could shrink the tumor significantly. And then a surgeon can go in and just excise the tumor," said Medical Oncologist Dr. Namrata Vijayvergia. "Then we bring in some radiation towards the end, because the radiation sort of sterilizes the pelvis."

"The whole reason we do clinical trials is to answer questions and move the needle so we can improve care for future patients," said Dr. Farma.

But even with updated therapies doctors said prevention is key and that means getting a colonoscopy.

"Finding it early can be a cure and you know you can put it behind you and you can move on with life," said Dr. Vijayvergia.

Fox Chase is looking for more patients to enroll in this clinical trial. Click here for more information.
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