Biomarker Discovery and Development

Colon Cancer (CC) Biomarkers

ColoRectal Cancer (CRC)

Over $15 billion dollars is spent annually in the United States for the detection and treatment of colorectal cancer; the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, causing 50,000 deaths per year.  ColoRectal CRC accounts for 11% of all new cancer cases and 9% of all cancer related deaths in the United States (US).  Currently, approximately 150,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed each year, in the US.  Overall, the lifetime probability of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 19 or 5.4%.

      Over 95% of colon and rectal cancers are adenocarcinomas derived from the epithelial cells that line the inside of the colon and rectum.  CRC typically begins with a growth, a polyp, that is not yet cancer, which if caught early, is easily treatable with minor surgical intervention.  Unfortunately, most people with early colon cancer are asymptomatic and symptoms usually do not appear until the cancer has reached an advanced stage.  Furthermore, currently the best means of early detection is a colonoscopy.  Many individuals do not avail themselves of this procedure due to its costly and invasive nature.  Therefore, a high percentage of CRC cases are not detected until the cancer has progressed significantly, invaded adjoining tissues, and/or metastasized (the majority of patients present with Stage III or IV disease); hence, both the high percentage of reoccurrence and relatively high mortality rate observed in CRC.  This is why the search for early stage CRC biomarkers is so vital.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of CRC biomarkers discovered do not function in vivo, are not very effective, recognize only a small subset of cancers, and often only detect CRC AFTER it has progressed to later stages and grades, which, while useful in indicating the need for a colonoscopy, are much too late in their detection.  All of these factors underscore our desperate need to develop more efficient biomarkers for earlier CRC detection, therapeutic target identification, drug testing, and as efficacy readouts in treatment programs.