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Immunotherapy for Colorectal Cancer
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What Makes Immunotherapy a Promising Treatment for Colorectal Cancer?

Reviewed By: Dirk Jäger, M.D.
National Center for Tumor Diseases, University of Heidelberg, Germany


Colorectal cancer, referring to both colon cancer and rectal cancer, is the third most common cancer type among both genders in the US, and also the second most deadly. This cancer begins in the lining of the colon or rectum, with the ability to spread into other organ systems.

Though overall death and incidence rates among both men and women have been on the decline over the past two decades—largely due to screening tests that detect pre- and early stage disease—underuse of these screening tests means that only 40% of colorectal cancers are diagnosed as early stage, when the survival rate is highly favorable at 90%.

Though the most common current treatment for colorectal cancer is surgical, there are currently four targeted antibody immunotherapies―bevacizumab, cetuximab, ramucirumab, and panitumumab―approved for colorectal cancer. Furthermore, two checkpoint inhibitors, nivolumab and pembrolizumab, are approved for patients with MSI-H (microsatellite high) colorectal cancer that has relapsed after or is refractory to current options.

Currently, active colorectal cancer immunotherapies are classified as: checkpoint inhibitors and immune modulators, monoclonal antibodies, therapeutic vaccines, adoptive cell therapy, oncolytic virus therapy, adjuvant immunotherapies, and cytokines—most of which remain in early-phase clinical testing for colorectal cancer while showing encouraging promise in addressing other cancer types.

Are you a patient or caregiver interested in learning more about cancer immunotherapy treatment and clinical trials? If so, visit our Patient section on immunotherapy for colorectal cancer.

CRI's Impact on Colorectal Cancer

The Cancer Research Institute has a long history of supporting scientific research for the advancement of colorectal cancer treatment, seeing many major breakthroughs that have made immunotherapy a promising approach for this disease.

One landmark study in 1998 provided early evidence that immunotherapy treatments can act as a catalyst or enhancement for ideal immunologic conditions that could extend the lives of colorectal cancer patients. The recent development of the Immunoscore tool, a new way to classify tumors, better predicts the rate of relapse and survival in patients with colorectal cancers, providing essential prognostic information that can then improve the confidence of clinical decisions and rational stratification of patient treatment. CRI is also involved in an international coalition of Immunoscore investigators from over 20 countries, working to generate results that can lead to the implementation of the Immunoscore as a new cancer classification method.

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Most of all, I want the gift of immunotherapy to be accessible to everyone.

Stephen Estrada
Colorectal Cancer  |  Diagnosed 2013
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*Immunotherapy results may vary from patient to patient.

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