Global Symposium Aims to Combat Early-Age Onset Colorectal Cancer

June 18, 2020

Andrea Dwyer addressed why it is important to raise global awareness around the increasing rate of EAO-CRC, and how healthcare providers can get involved.

Since the mid 1990s, early-age onset colorectal cancer (EAO-CRC) increased by about 51% in those who are under age 50, according to Andrea (Andi) Dwyer, advisor to Fight CRC Research and Patient Education.

Therefore, Fight CRC recently hosted its virtual global symposium on June 11, to combat EAO-CRC.

“It’s really unsettling on some level that we're seeing this rise and there's not anything that we can quickly and fully attribute it to, Dwyer, who is also director of the Colorado Cancer Screening Program (CCSP) at the Colorado School of Public Health, said in an interview with CancerNetwork. “We've also seen incrementally people who are younger than age 55 that we have had an increase in about 2% per year. So, it's just getting worse on some level. And again, this is a global. I mean, if you use the US rates, that's also what we're seeing worldwide, particularly in developed countries.

Dwyer spoke further about the need to raise global awareness around the increasing rate of EAO-CRC and why initiatives like this are key for healthcare providers to take part in.

What are some highlights from the symposium?

Rebecca Siegel, MPH, a cancer epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, talked about these trends and what the rates that we're seeing are – really unpacking, kind of in deeper depth, the incidence rates and what we know about mortality as well, and then speaking to those issues and framing the issue. We talked a bit about the molecular markers and what we know about early onset colorectal cancer. Also, what we know about the disease in terms of a difference between people who are older than age 50 and younger than age 50, in terms of the biology.

We also heard further about the environmental impact and some of the causation areas that we think might be attributed to EAO CRC. We also spent some time talking further about the medical management of the disease and how we identify these cases. Right now, sometimes the symptoms that people have can be mistaken for any number of things. And if someone walks in at 30 years old and is having bleeding, or weight loss, it’s not the first thing that folks think of and it might not even hit the repertoire of what they are considering. So, we talked a bit further about public awareness, public health interventions, as well as clinical interventions to identify people earlier on who are presenting with signs and symptoms,

A big part of what we talked about is the hereditary risk for EAO CRC and looking at the familial syndromes. There's a lot that could be done and a lot that we do know about that hasn't been put into practice in terms of identifying high risk individuals who might need to start screening earlier.

The symposium gave an idea of causation, the etiology, what are the risk factors. What do we know about the differences in the how the cancers behave? And then ultimately, we want to move into some discussion around what are the things that we can do? And what are those opportunities to medically manage or identify folks for earlier screening or workup of signs and symptoms? And maybe what are some (recent opportunities around both of those subset of areas that we're going to be focusing upon?

What are you hoping is the key takeaway for healthcare providers?

So what we are really interested in is creating collaboratives to continue the research. But the real takeaway is, on some level, how do we build international consortiums to study this disease because truthfully, essentially, the numbers are growing. But the numbers in any given country, or any given part of a country, might not be enough for us to study. So international research collaborations are going to be key.

People are showing up for the science, showing up for the information. The bigger thing is: How do we join in as an international community to really study this work together? I think that's the real takeaway. And that's what we're creating as a canopy, for really convening the discussion and help leading out some of these discussions and creating this network to be able to build these sort of consortiums moving ahead.