Press Release

Colorectal Cancer Alliance-Funded Research among First to Examine Relationship between Colon Microbiota and Colorectal Cancer

January 23, 2018 (Washington, D.C.) – National nonprofit Colorectal Cancer Alliance will invest $125,000 in innovative, peer-reviewed research by Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Benjamin Weinberg, MD, as part of its Chris4Life Research Program, which funds research in young-onset colorectal cancer and other areas. With Alliance funding, Weinberg will be among the first to study differences in the colon microbiota in younger and older patients with colorectal cancer.

The colon microbiota refers to the trillions of cells that comprise a complex community of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms in the gut. Researchers increasingly believe microbiota has influence over human homeostasis and disease. Finding a link between changes in colon microbiota and colorectal cancer in young patients will guide future research in both preventative screening and treatment for young-onset colorectal cancer patients.

“Cancer doesn’t care how old you are, but we do,” said Michael Sapienza, CEO of Colorectal Cancer Alliance. “The Alliance has committed to investing $3 million for young-onset colorectal cancer research over three years. We are defying and redefining the odds. We are changing the face of this disease.”

Over the two-year term of the research project, Weinberg will also explore the impact of diet on colon microbiota and its potential effect on the development of colorectal cancer.

“A leading theory for why rates of colorectal cancer are increasing in younger patients relates to lifestyle factors, including diet and exercise,” says Weinberg, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine. “Also, increasing evidence shows that bacteria and local inflammation of the colon can drive cancer growth. With the help of this grant from Colorectal Cancer Alliance, our research can help explore these theories that could lead to potential ways of mitigating risk.”

Since 1994, diagnosis of colorectal cancer in adults ages 20-49 have increased by 51%, according to the National Cancer Institute. There is no consensus as to why the rate is climbing, and there is need for more research in this area. A recent Colorectal Cancer Alliance study showed that 82% of young-onset colorectal cancer patients were initially misdiagnosed. Colorectal cancer is curable if caught early.

The Chris4Life Research Program was established in 2010 and to date has committed over $1 million to innovative and life-saving research. The grant to Weinberg is the first peer-reviewed award from the program, which used a grant-selection process similar to that of the National Institutes of Health. Research proposals were reviewed by members of a distinguished scientific review panel.

“Dr. Weinberg’s proposed research is novel, innovative, and highly interesting, and he will be well supported by the team at Georgetown Lombardi Ruesch Center for the Cure of Gastrointestinal Cancers,” said Christopher Lieu, MD, Co-Chair of the Chris4Life Research Program’s Scientific Review Panel. “We look forward to results that will yield advances in the field of young-onset colorectal cancer research.”

The Colorectal Cancer Alliance has committed to investing $3 million for young-onset colorectal cancer research over three years, including this grant. Applications for new funding will be accepted beginning in March. In addition, the Alliance has launched a Never Too Young (N2Y) Advisory Board to address the concerns and needs of young-onset colorectal cancer patients and survivors.

About Dr. Weinberg

Weinberg is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine and an attending physician at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. He is a member of the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, in Washington, D.C., specializing in gastrointestinal oncology and sarcoma.

About the Colorectal Cancer Alliance

The Colorectal Cancer Alliance is a national nonprofit committed to ending colorectal cancer. Working with our nation of passionate allies, we diligently support the needs of patients and families, caregivers, and survivors; eagerly raise awareness of preventative screening; and continually strive to fund critical research. As allies in the struggle, we are fiercely determined to end colorectal cancer within our lifetime.

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