National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
(Jeff's grandma is currently battling this cancer.)
Colorectal cancer, like many other cancers, is extremely important to catch early, before it spreads. Watch for common warning signs such as changes in bowel habits, bleeding from the rectum, and blood in the stool that appears bright red or black. Starting at age 40, men and women should get a yearly fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or Fecal immunochemical test (FIT). Men and women should get a colonoscopy every 5-10 years starting at age 50. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about getting screened more frequently. For a complete list of recommended cancer screenings, click here. If you are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, the four most common types of treatment options are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapies (for a detailed listing of your personal treatment options, click here to visit the National Foundation for Cancer Research's Free Online Treatment Decision Tools).
Of these four treatment options, the National Foundation for Cancer Research is most focused on improving the last one - targeted therapies - because these hold the most promise for the future of colorectal cancer treatment. Targeted therapies block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules that promote cancer growth. These specific molecules are called "molecular targets."
NFCR Scientist Wei Zhang, Ph.D., at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, has recently discovered what may be a brand new molecular target for colorectal cancer. Dr. Zhang collected tumor samples from colorectal patients and analyzed them. He found an unusually high amount of a protein called NGAL in cancer cells as compared to normal cells. With further analysis, Dr. Zhang found that NGAL plays an important role in changing the cancer cells to become more inviasive - or spread to nearby tissues. If that is the case, then NGAL would be a new molecular target that can then lead to the development of a new drug to stop cancer cells from becoming cells that may spread or metastasize from their primary site. This is a significant breakthrough because colorectal cancer, like most cancers, is at its deadliest once it has spread. Dr. Zhang's research on NGAL may soon determine if it may become a new biomarker for colon cancer metastasis, and a therapeutic target for treatment of colorectal cancer. To learn more, click here.