The Colon Cancer Foundation’s Lakshmi Yeturu sat down (virtually!) with Dr. Brian Dooreck to find out more about his initiative to arm newly diagnosed colorectal cancer patients and caregivers with substantial resources as they bravely face their diagnosis and treatment. Part I of this interview can be found here.

 

Can you tell us more about the mission of the Colorectal Cancer Provider Outreach Program (CRC POP) ?

The premise is quite simple. Provide our patients with guidance and direction to the support that is available to them at the time of diagnosis at the bedside.

 

If a newly diagnosed patient approached you for support, how would you describe CRC POP to them?

The Colorectal Cancer Provider Outreach Program is designed to provide you access to nationally available support organizations, their websites and phone numbers, to call them, connect with them, engage with them, lean into them, pull from them, share with them, and get whatever support you and your family need. There’s no monetization, there’s no hope, there’s no sale, and there’s no email being collected—there’s nothing more than just providing direction to you at the time of diagnosis to reinforce that you’re not alone and to provide you with the support you need here and now.

 

What kind of resources do you look to arm them with?

  • For their mobile phone, texting the word ‘COLON’ to 484848
  • All our providers have the ability to put a PDF on their website
  • All our providers have the ability to put an order in their electronic medical records

And that’s all that’s needed…there’s not much more to it. The providers are being given the simplest of tools to lead patients to a centralized web page, centralized PDF, and a centralized text number to give patients direction.

 

Does CRC POP seek to provide resources for caregivers and loved ones as well?

As I mentioned earlier, of the 150,000 people diagnosed with colon cancer every year, every diagnosis has a family member or a support system around them. So, if you take that number and extrapolate it out, every person that is affected may affect, on average, three or five or six other people. Do the math and that number becomes a lot more than 150,000. We expect that  very soon, the support that we are providing at the time of diagnosis can not only help the patient and their family but also promote screening and prevention for those organizations that have preventive screening programs

 

How has CRC POP progressed since it was founded? In your opinion do you think patients will seek POP as a resource for comfort or information following their diagnosis?

his idea was conceived in May or June of 2020; we had initial calls in July, drafted it and we launched on October 1st. We are now in a position where CRC POP is set up, it is up and running and we are in the process of sharing it with GI providers through social media.

Our goals are to connect with the three GI Associations, to find tools through them, through the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable and the American Cancer Society. In addition, we want to connect with endoscopy centers. I am all about finding the outcomes and results we need to get to the providers quicker, faster, and easier.

I’m not going to be cold calling. Instead, we have started by getting about 10 of the largest groups aware of this and signed onto it in principle, including Gastro Health and GI Alliance. About 1200 GI doctors represented by those 10 groups now know what we’re doing and it’s now about ‘How do you utilize what is there?’

 

Personally, do you associate the terms ‘comfort’ or ‘information’ with the aims of CRC POP? Or is there another term you think better resonates the mission of CRC POP?

The missions are for me clearly ‘reassurance and support’. I would say reassurance and support at the time of diagnosis, provided by the doctor to the patient.

 

Do you feel like this program will make a real-world impact on the scale of patient information access?

 My goal is to measure it every month and to know how many clicks, how many calls each of these organizations are getting because you’re suddenly taking the active, potential user of a resource and providing them with the information in their hands. If it helps one person feel more reassured, more secure and they get the information they need then it is serving its purpose. That’s my goal, to have increased utilization month to month to month by the 14,000 gastroenterologists in the country.

 

In short, your goal is to measure how this is impacting the patients that you, your partners, or the gastroenterologists that have signed on to this program are diagnosing, and to eventually put this out there so every single board-certified gastroenterologist who can diagnose colorectal cancer introduces their newly diagnosed patient to CRC POP?

Ideally, that would be wonderful because we’re diagnosing the cancer and we’re sending the patient home. And this is how it goes: we diagnose someone and 10 minutes later I’m doing a procedure on another patient and that person is home in a cold panic, not understanding, clouded, diagnosed, Googling ‘Am I going to die from colon cancer?’ What I’m doing is providing reassurance at the time of diagnosis that gives them the guidance they want and need through whatever resources they choose to tap into. What the organizations do, what happens from that point of contact is between the organizations and the patient or the person reaching out. What I’m doing is providing people the direction.

 

So, what you are saying is that you are being there for the patient even when you’re physically not there for them after they’ve been diagnosed?

Yes, correct, I’ll see them in two weeks but in that two-week window, a lot of things need to be done. They need to get labs, they need to see a surgeon, they need to see an oncologist, they need to get a CAT scan. But besides that, I’m not there for them. They will call my office maybe but imagine having a 24/7, 1-800 number to call to speak to someone, to have a group to join, a community to have. Have their questions answered on things like ‘Am I going to die?’

In these cases, people’s world is thrown upside down, their blueprints in life are ripped up, and that’s kind of what we are trying to provide support for in the simplest of terms. Leveraging free technology and helping people.

 

Lastly, I just wanted to conclude on an open-ended note. For those within the non-scientific/medical community, do you think that this program will pave the avenue to improve the scale of information made available to patients after they are diagnosed?

I mean the level of information available from these organizations is huge and the level of information they provide is not just clinical, emotional, financial, academic, research, or trial-based. The level of advocacy, lobbying, or opportunity they can provide people is probably so individualized that it’s not measurable. So, I think that the potential of what happens from the contact made by a person—be it a patient, their family member, or their caregiver—with any of these organizations is truly dependent on what they want or need from it and what they express their needs to be. I can almost guarantee you that any organization that is not able to provide that assistance or that direction will say, ‘Listen, we’re really good at this we are excellent at that, but we don’t know anything about that. You know who does? This organization. Ask for this person, here’s the phone number.’ That’s what will happen.

 

If so, could you describe why it is imperative to support the large-scale sharing of medical information that ensures that all patients are adequately informed about their diagnoses?

Well, I wouldn’t say it’s imperative in the sense that the medical care is not going to get affected in theory. But in terms of imperative to providing the highest quality of care, no doubt. Imperative to providing the most empathetic role as a provider and position, no doubt. Imperative in improving people’s quality of life and sharing something to help someone else at a level that’s not technical, cold, calculated, or that can be measured in a medical chart. That’s imperative. The role of this is imperative because it’s not us who’s being told we have colon cancer and I always say it could be one in a million but you’re that one it’s a 100%.

That’s where I see the role of this program and the reality is it just takes a little courage and a little change in a little shift in mindset of the gastroenterologist to get a new part of their working algorithm or new part of their process into play. You get into their knee jerk response: I diagnose colon cancer, I tell the patient to text 484848, type in the words ‘COLON’, remind them resources are available right now.

 

 

 

As COVID-19 continues to spread like wildfire, it becomes increasingly important to tackle the growing backlog of cancer surgeries. While returning to normal is currently not an option, a lot of hospitals around the world, especially hospitals in COVID-19 hot spots, have begun implementing COVID-19 surgical pathways to help ease the surgical burden. The 2020 European Society of Surgical Oncology (ESSO)’s virtual summit opened our eyes to the inescapable fact that COVID-19 will reshape the face of surgical oncology.

 

Impact of COVID-19 on High-Income Regions

With the pandemic in full swing and cases ever on the rise, surgeons, particularly cancer surgeons, across the world are debating the necessities of implementing long-term change with operation scheduling, minimal person-to-person contact, and elective surgery cancellations. As expected, COVID-19 has resulted in a drastic reduction of surgical activity worldwide, with coronavirus hot spots Europe and the U.S. seeing massive reductions.

 

What Was the Cancer Surgery Burden in Europe’s Biggest Hotspot, Italy?

An elective oncological survey was conducted by Marco Montorsi, MD, and his team to understand how COVID-19 had affected surgical care of Italian cancer patients. The survey was sent to 54 surgical units in three stages: before, during, and after the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

During the peak of the first wave, the survey identified a clear reduction in the number of cancer resections scheduled per week, alongside:

  • 70% reduction in surgical beds
  • 76% reduction in surgical activity
  • Almost complete cancellation of outpatient surgeries

Also seen was a prolongation in the time-interval between cancer multidisciplinary team (MDT) discussions and the surgery itself. Disease biology, tumor aggressiveness, and interval from neoadjuvant treatments were the three primary criteria that defined the urgency of the surgery and thereby its need to be performed during the pandemic.

 

Dr. Montorsi stated that a follow-up elective survey is in the making to monitor the effects of the ongoing second wave. He explained that the aims of the second survey are “to investigate the impact of COVID-19 in surgical departments in the past months of heavy pandemic, understand outcomes of COVID-19 patients undergoing oncological surgery, and to investigate how many alternative treatments to surgery have been performed and how many of these are considered to be a bridge to surgery.”

Dr. Montorsi also highlighted that during the heat of the pandemic in Italy, surgeons tried to devise a new priority model for elective surgeries performed on cancer patients. They found that of the minimally invasive surgeries performed during the COVID-19 pandemic, liver and pancreatic cancer surgeries were vastly reduced but colorectal cancer surgery rates in Italy remained similar to previous years, showing that certain hospitals remained a safe environment to perform cancer surgeries in, if strict Personal Protective Equipment guidelines were followed.

However, as the pandemic continues to be a destructive force in the health care industry, an increasing number of surgeons are becoming unavailable to perform surgeries after contracting COVID-19. So, the large question remains, “How do we proceed?” Dr. Montorsi asked. In Italy alone, an estimated 400,000 cancer surgeries need reprogramming in the gap between the COVID-19 waves, and with more and more of the workforce becoming susceptible to COVID-19, this question really needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

 

How Does the U.S. Compare to Italy?

Let’s look at the big picture. The U.S is now the worst COVID-19 affected country worldwide, with a total of 13.5 million cases and 268k deaths by December 1st 2020 and climbing. It is no surprise that cancer patients are suffering more and fighting harder to survive than they have ever before. The fight is real for everyone but increasing amounts of data show that cancer patients are more vulnerable to worsened outcomes if they contract SARS-CoV-2, which includes increased need for oxygenation via ventilation and raised infection-associated mortality.

Secondly, cancer patients are getting delayed diagnoses due to the decreased availability or suspension of diagnostic and screening services. This alone is terrifying because a patient’s diagnosis for their cancer stage and grade is the only way treatment can be determined. Additionally, pre-diagnosed but un-staged cancer patients are also reluctant to be screened because they do not want to risk contracting COVID-19. This effectively means that patients are being diagnosed later and later, thereby worsening their prognosis and increasing their fight for survival by 100-fold. Thirdly, pre-determined treatment options for patients prior to COVID-19 outbreaks have been altered or cancelled altogether depending on the rate of tumor progression, to free hospital bed availability for terminal or life-threatening COVID-19 patients and to minimize exposure to vulnerable immunosuppressed individuals like cancer patients during treatment or surgery. While this is done with careful consideration by the patients’ MDT, there is no guarantee that tumor progression is unaffected when the patient is not receiving treatment or is receiving an alternative treatment.

 

What Are the Implications for Cancer Surgery?

Capacity for surgery has been drastically reduced as operation theatre space and ventilators have been reallocated to provide for the critical care capacity of COVID-19 patients. Moreover, reports have shown that there is increased risk for contracting COVID-19 postoperatively for any non-COVID elective surgeries, making patients, especially vulnerable ones (i.e., cancer patients, immunosuppressed, and the elderly), more reluctant to undergo surgery in COVID-19 overflow hospitals. Studies conducted in China, Europe, and North America have shown that cancer patients, particularly lung-cancer patients, who contract COVID-19 have a higher risk of mortality, increased ICU admission risk, and severe clinical effects when compared to non-cancer COVID-19 patients. Additionally, a recent meta-analysis showed that all-cause mortality was significantly higher in cancer patients when compared to non-cancer patients, and similar to previous coronavirus outbreaks, the reported mortality rate was 84% in cancer patients compared to 39% in non-cancer patients, further demonstrating the vulnerability of cancer patients to the SARS-CoV-2 infection.

As a result, most MDT’s have opted to put their patients on neoadjuvant chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or hormonal therapy as therapeutic buffers until surgery become available again. However, these options are usually not effective as primary treatment options and therefore also increase the risk of cancer-associated mortality. In order to help oncologists and cancer surgeons navigate this complex field of decisions, the American College of Surgeons “has recommended that in early stages of the pandemic, semi-elective surgery, such as for nearly obstructing colon cancers, stenting for oesophageal cancers and most gynecological cancers, should continue.” In response, health care facilities like hospitals, cancer care centers, and surgical centers are trying to rapidly reorganize elective cancer procedures to ensure that cancer patients continue to receive all the essential care while minimizing their exposure to the deadly COVID-19 infection.

 

Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a catastrophic global disruption in the field of surgical oncology, severely delayed cancer diagnoses and treatment, and halted many ground-breaking surgical clinical trials. Many studies including Dr. Montorsi’s elective oncological survey, Mehta and Goel’s COVID-19 and cancer patient outcome, Rickards et al., study on COVID-19’s impact, have repeatedly tried to objectively quantify the impact of COVID-19 on cancer care. However, with the continuous progress of this pandemic, it has become impossible to gather data and understand the real-time effects on surgical care. While models are under development to try and ease this burden, much of the work to recenter surgical oncology remains to be done.

– Describe yourself (Personal background, academic background, interests…)

I am a general surgery resident at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). I just completed two years (2018-2020) of dedicated research in the field of colorectal surgery and surgical oncology with a specific interest in colorectal cancer and surgical prehabilitation.

 I am originally from the California Bay Area but have done all of my education and training out east. My undergraduate years were spent at Johns Hopkins University and I subsequently received a Masters in Microbiology & Immunology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. I graduated from Jefferson Medical College in 2015 with AOA distinction before heading up to Boston for my surgical training. I am now in the midst of my 6th of 7 years at MGH with plans to pursue a fellowship in colorectal surgery.

 

– Tell us about any awards and distinctions you have received

I have been fortunate to have received numerous prior awards for my research that has been presented at other regional and national meetings both in medical school and residency. In medical school, I was elected to AOA in my third year. In residency, I was named the General Surgery Consultant of the Year in 2018 by our MGH Emergency Medicine colleagues. My research work in prehabilitation was funded by an NIH T32 training grant and my NCT clinical trial is funded by numerous institutional grants.

 

– What made you interested in doing work in colon cancer?

Unfortunately, my family does have a history of colon cancer within it and I know firsthand the struggles that my family members have gone through. Therefore when I began residency, I had not originally believed that I would choose a career in colorectal surgery. However, once I rotated on our service here at MGH and interacted with the patients and was able to create personal connections with them based on shared experiences with this disease, I realized that this was my calling to treat these patients.

 

– Tell us about your past work and research efforts in the past and its significance to colon cancer

Much of my prior work was focused on colon cancer among octogenarians and how we can improve care for that population, which is significant given the growing number of aging citizens within this country paired with a longer lifespan. My latest work on this topic, which is to be published in Surgery next month, introduces the idea that older patients (>80) may have a different phenotype and both medical and surgical treatments may need to be tailored more specifically to their needs.

 

– Describe the current work you are conducting

 My current work is in surgical prehabilitation or “prehab” where I designed and am a co-investigator on a clinical trial purposed to investigate if exercise and nutritional prehabilitation benefits patients with gastrointestinal cancers. Specifically, we are investigating if these prescribed modalities improve surgical outcomes, survival, tumor biologics, and quality of life. The progress of our trial, unfortunately, got a bit derailed by the pandemic but we are hoping to restart this fall.

 

– What is your mission and goals in the current work that you are doing?

Currently, there is a time window between the date of colon cancer diagnosis and the date of surgery that is not being optimized to its full potential. My goal is to introduce prehab into this time window. During this time, we should be building our patient’s cardiopulmonary fitness and increasing their protein reserves in preparation for the stress of their surgery. Just as runners train for a marathon, we should be preparing our patients. My mission is to determine the optimal components of prehab, personalize them for individual patients, and ultimately prove the benefit that I believe exists.

 

– What are your goals for your future?

 My short-term goals are to successfully complete a residency in June 2022 followed by a fellowship in colorectal surgery. Long-term I plan to become an academic colorectal surgeon with both clinical and research pursuits that continuously try to improve care for patients with colon cancer.

 

– When did you first know that you wanted to work in this particular field of research, and why were you so passionate about that?

 As a former college athlete, I have always been interested in how I can intersect exercise and surgery. The concept of prehabilitation was speculated upon in some of my early readings in residency and I was fortunate to find a mentor who shared a passion for this topic. This helped me harness my focus and work on this particular field during my two years of dedicated research within residency.

While working on prehab and speculating on how exercise might be able to affect tumor biology, the topic of pathologic complete response (pCR) arose. We speculated, could exercise work synergistically with neoadjuvant therapy to promote a pCR? This is entirely pure speculation as there is currently no data to that exists to study this idea, however, it did spark my interest into pCR and led to the research project for which I received this award.

 

– For those who may not have the scientific background that you do, why is it so important that we all support the research being done in the field of colon cancer treatment and prevention?

It is tremendously important! Despite having great screening tools, colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in this country. So much work is still left to be done and research support is critical so that physicians and scientists can continue to make improvements on how this disease is detected, treated, and ultimately prevented. 

 

– How has this award changed your life so far?

I am extremely grateful for this award. It has been incredibly beneficial for my career already in that it has sparked new acquaintances and conversations with other leaders and researchers of colon cancer. My hope is that some of these conversations turn into collaborations to help unite and synergize our efforts to fight this disease.

 

The 2020 Challenge has gone virtual during this unprecedented time. By going virtual you can still raise awareness and fund colorectal cancer research sorely needs now more than ever.  Our goal is to collectively take 1.8 million steps a day (representing 1.8 Million diagnoses per year). This will enable us to cover 41,672 miles OR ~ 83 Million steps! Most importantly we hope each of you will join us in meeting the American Heart Association’s recommended 10,000 steps per day. Let’s “Take Action Together To Defeat Colorectal Cancer!” Sign up today!

Learn why Sanjay and his family are participating in the 2020 Virtual Challenge.

The bery family did it’s own virtual event in Harry Dunham their local park in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. The kids ran 5 k and seema/ Sanjay walked 3.2 k, wearing their Colon Cancer Challenge. 2020 was the 12th year that Bery Colon Cancer Helpers participated in this Challenge — the locations have varied over the years from Central Park, Citi Field, Randall’s Island, and now Harry Dunham park.

After each Challenge the BCCH (bery colon cancer helpers) would go to a le Pain Quoitden ( a Belgium cafe chain ) in Manhattan for tartine lunch. We replicated that by creating our own le pain quoitden in our own kitchen (do not miss the cookbook in the 4th picture) and making our own open-faced tar-tine. Donate today. 

 

If you are interested in fundraising, signing up or becoming a sponsor of the Global Colon Cancer Challenge please follow the links below.

We are extremely excited to continue the legacy of the physical Colon Cancer Challenge by going virtual this year. Next year the physical Colon Cancer Challenge will return stronger than ever! In the meantime please stay safe and help us reach our goal of 1.8 million steps per day.

 

Colorectal cancer, which is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, will affect around 1 in 22 men and 1 in 24 women in our lifetime. While there are numerous links between hereditary and lifestyle risks of developing colon cancer, there are still unknown risks with the disease. Recently, researchers in France discovered a new link between onset colorectal cancer.

 

Hôpitaux Universitaires Henri Mondor’s Dr. Iradj Sobhani and the University Paris-Est Créteil conducted research in a mice model that shows the correlation between onset colorectal cancer and the dysbiosis, a sensitive gut microbiota.

 

The study was conducted based on previous research that showed a link between gut microbes and onset colon cancer. The study covered 136 mice, which had stool samples from nine people with sporadic colon cancer or nine people without colon cancer.

 

The mice that had samples from those with sporadic colon cancer had traces of dysbiosis and precancerous lesions. The results of the research prompted the group to develop a non-invasive blood test to screen for dysbiosis.

 

The researchers were able to link their blood test in preliminary studies, but will run larger trials to ensure it can be implemented on a larger scale. The non-invasive blood test is a promising step forward in helping to diagnose those that will develop colon cancer without a predisposed risk factor.

 

Stay up-to-date on other colorectal cancer news and research with the Colon Cancer Foundation blog.

 

Recently, Team Colon Cancer Challenge ran the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon, where they “made their miles count” by raising funds to support the Colon Cancer Foundation. Each member of the team raised at least $3,000 to support colon cancer survivors and patients.

 

According to the American Cancer Society, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is around 1 in 22 for men and 1 in 24 for women. Every member of Team Colon Cancer Challenge helps spread the word that colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable with early screening. The Colon Cancer Foundation launched Team Colon Cancer Challenge in 2010 and has raised over $500,000 in support of efforts to raise awareness of colon cancer.

 

The 2019 Team Colon Cancer Challenge New York Marathon runners have currently raised over $100,000! Thank you and congratulations to all of the Team Colon Cancer team members:

 

Ross Drever

Claudia and Chelsea Lee Hammerschmidt

Michael Murray

Anthony Sandeen

Michael Hicks

Anthony Gollan

Patricia Crisafulli

Nanette Nelson

Elizabeth Barth

Stephanie Moore

Kate Griffin

Ana Bisciello

Ty Senour

Samantha Tritt

Gary Killion

Sam Fairall-Lee

Young-Eun Choi

John Toigo

Chris Scolavino

Ryan Gibbs

Jake Quiat

Allison Gibbs

Samantha Ahearn

Chris Berg

Nic Crider

 

For more information on joining Team Colon Cancer Challenge for the 50th anniversary of the New York Marathon in 2020, please visit https://www.coloncancerfoundation.org/events/ or contact us at info@coloncancerfoundation.org.

 

Sun lovers rejoice: recent studies show that vitamin D may slow down colorectal cancer growth. A new trial called SUNSHINE, conducted at 11 United States academic and community cancer centers, showed positive results for patients with advanced colorectal cancer.

In the study, two groups of 139 participants with advanced colorectal cancer took either a high-dose or low-dose of vitamin D3in combination with their chemotherapy treatments. In the high-dose group, the disease progression stopped for 13 months on average. In the low-dose group, the disease progression stopped for 11 months on average.

Perhaps most impressively, the study showed that high-dose group participants were less likely to have disease progression or death in their almost two-year follow-up period.

Before you jump into the sun, there are a few things to understand about vitamin D. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health estimates that 1 billion humans worldwide have a vitamin D deficiency. If you live north of the line that connects Philadelphia to San Francisco, chances are you may not get enough vitamin D in through the sun. Additionally, you would need to walk outside for 15 minutes a day to get the necessary amount. The best way for most people to get an adequate dose of vitamin D is through a supplement. Talk to your health care provider if you think that you should add more vitamin D into your diet.

While a larger trial is required to confirm that vitamin D may slow colorectal cancer growth, this is exciting news for families who are impacted by this deadly cancer. As the second-deadliest cancer in the United States, the chance of vitamin D playing a role in reducing disease progression in cancer patients is optimistic.

Learn more about the facts regarding colorectal cancer and what puts you at risk.

 

 

 

 

The Colon Cancer Foundation is pleased to announce Dr. Jenny Lazarus as a recipient of the 2019 Colorectal Cancer Research Scholar Award. Dr. Lazarus currently focuses on immune therapy, combined with looking at colon cancer at a microscopic level to understand how the cancer cells interact with other cells. She will join the Colon Cancer Foundation at the Colorectal Cancer Research Scholar Award Presentation this year. Read our interview to learn more about Dr. Lazarus and her role in colorectal cancer research.

Tell us about your background.

I am from a small town in the mountains of Northern California. I received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Davis in Classical Civilizations with an emphasis on Latin poetry and Roman art. I completed my Medical Degree from Ross University in Dominica, West Indies. I have traveled to many places in my life and my ultimate goals are a cure for cancer and relief to pain and suffering in the world.

What made you interested in colon cancer research?

Colon cancer has afflicted many people and although we have made improvements, a large group of people are still suffering.

Tell us about your past work and research efforts in the past and its significance to colon cancer.

My past work as a surgeon in training at Texas Tech Health Science Center in Lubbock Texas, where I will return to finish my training this July, has and will prepare me to treat individuals who have colon cancer surgically. My research efforts at the University of Michigan have focused on patients who have colon cancer that has spread to other organs where surgery is no longer a cure.

When did you first know that you wanted to work in surgery, and why were you so passionate about that?

During my third year of surgical training, I was involved in the care of a child that was diagnosed with cancer that was not able to be cured by surgery alone. We employed the help of other physicians who were research scientists for the care of the child. That experience helped refine my focus into pursuing a career where I could not only alleviate suffering with surgery but also investigate the cancer itself to further enhance the life of the patients where surgery alone was not a cure.

Describe the current colorectal cancer research you are conducting.

Immune therapy is currently used to treat a small subset of patients with colon cancer. In this small group of people, the tumor itself is unique and the treatment is effective often giving patients a cure. We are looking at colon cancer at a microscopic level to understand how the cancer cells are interacting with other cells. Understanding the immune cells in the tumor is just as important as understanding the cancer cells in determining how immune therapy works on specific individuals and not others. We are currently investigating the interactions between these cells. In doing so, we see patterns emerging in different patients with colon cancer. Each patient has a different pattern of cell types and some patients have similar patterns to each other. We found that patients who share a particular pattern of cells in the tumor are likely to benefit from immune therapy thus increasing the number of people who can receive and benefit from its treatment.

What is your mission and goals in the current work that you are doing?

My primary overall mission is to cure colon cancer. Although a daunting task, I believe it is possible. The cohesive and dynamic team in the Department of Surgery at the University of Michigan has brought together many individual’s research strengths into one collaborative unit where thoughts, ideas, and expertise can meld together for the improvement of the lives of patients. Our goals are to develop new ways of analyzing tumor cells and their interactions with other cells as well as increasing the collaborative environment with other physicians and surgeons to better the quality of patient’s lives.

What are your goals for your future?

I will finish surgical training at Texas Tech Health Science Center in Lubbock Texas and pursue a career in academic research as a surgeon-scientist. I have learned the importance of a team approach, a model I will take with me and employ when I establish a laboratory in the future. I plan to focus on innovative surgical and research techniques as well as foster a rich collaborative environment with not only other physicians and researchers but also foundations and the community to bring information and new treatments to patients as quickly as possible.

What would a colorectal cancer breakthrough mean for millions of people?

I do think we are close to a breakthrough! We were ecstatic to discover the possibility of another group of individuals with colon cancer that may very well benefit from immune therapy which is already being used in a smaller group of people. A breakthrough for a cure would not only impact people who have cancer, but also their friends, family members and co-workers. We are all connected in one way or another and any impact on the health and prosperity of even one person can influence the world.

Why is it so important that we all support research conducted in the field of colon cancer treatment and prevention?

As surgeons, we are able to help people immediately by removing colon cancer itself, this can alleviate pain, stop the cancer from spreading, and for many people this is a cure. Sometimes however when someone has surgery, colon cancer can come back. In addition, some people learn they have cancer after the colon cancer has already spread. In these cases research is the future hope for a cure. Individuals and foundations like the Colon Cancer Challenge Foundation are vital for a cure. Funding for research is scarce not only for researchers themselves but for the equipment and resources needed for study. Support from the community is vital to a future cure.

How has the 2019 Colorectal Cancer Research Scholar Award changed your life?

This award really has confirmed the focus of my career. I feel supported in the research I am conducting but also feel supported as a researcher, this has propelled my energy and focus toward my future goals in knowing that the community supports not only my research but myself as a surgeon-scientist.

 

The Colon Cancer Foundation would like to thank all of our volunteers for their hard work and donations to make the 2019 Colorectal Cancer Research Scholar Award possible. Learn how you support Dr. Lazarus and work toward a cure for colorectal cancer at our website.