When we talk about the future of colorectal cancer (CRC) care, it’s critical to understand what sets this disease apart from most other cancers. CRC can be deadly but is highly preventable with screening, and with early detection, it has a 90 percent survival rate. That’s why the future of treatment for CRC begins before diagnosis.
1. Innovation in screening
Screening is often thought of as a way to detect a disease. That’s true, but screening can also identify patients who are at higher risk. One solution is genetic testing, which can provide early warnings for inherited conditions that can cause CRC.
Genetic testing is more popular and affordable than ever. As recently as 2012, one test to analyze two genes cost $3,340. By 2017, a test that analyzed 30 genes was priced at $250. One day soon, an inexpensive genetic test completed at home will give insight about a person’s CRC risk, letting them take preventive measures.
2. Precision treatment
Personalized medicine in CRC — tailoring treatment to a specific tumor — relies on continued research on actionable biomarkers. Biomarkers are DNA, proteins, and gene mutations found in blood, tissue, and other body fluids. Biomarkers can provide doctors with a better understanding of an individual patient’s tumor, guiding them toward the most precise and effective treatment. Treatment for CRC has progressed beyond a one-size-fits-all approach.
Already, 12 biomarkers can inform a patient’s CRC prognosis and treatment plan. For example, all CRC patients should be tested for the MSI-H biomarker. Research shows that patients with this biomarker tend to respond well to immunotherapy.
3. Innovative surgical techniques
Treatment for CRC usually requires surgery to remove the primary tumor. Laparoscopic surgery for gastrointestinal procedures has been expanding over the past decade. Because a laparoscopic procedure uses small incisions, patients tend to recover faster and easier, with less pain and shorter hospital stays. Novel methods in surgery are aiding in the movement toward patient choice and, ultimately, wellness and survival.