Advances in Targeted Therapies Promise Significant Change in Treatment of Colorectal Cancer

CURE, CURE® Gastrointestinal Cancers 2021 Special Issue,

New clinical trials open doors for positive changes in treatment of colorectal cancer.

Recent headway in the study of targeted therapies has transformed how some cancer types are treated. For instance, the past several years, we have seen an influx of targeted therapies that have been shown to successfully treat patients with breast cancer, lung cancer and melanoma.

However, as one expert noted in a feature article in this special issue of CURE®, targeted therapies have not been as successful when used to treat colorectal cancer. But this expert also noted how researchers have learned from the past and are on the cusp of revolutionizing treatment for this patient population.

“Compared (with) other forms of cancer, results of targeted therapy agents have not been as impressive in colorectal cancer, but we have learned from many negative trials,” says Dr. Afsaneh Barzi, a gastrointestinal medical oncologist at City of Hope in Duarte, California. “With the new clinical trials, we are right on the cusp of seeing significant changes in outcomes for this population of patients.”

Also in this special issue, we explore a Food and Drug Administration priority review of Opdivo (nivolumab) plus chemotherapy in the treatment of patients with certain advanced gastrointestinal cancers and, if approved, what the combination therapy would offer this patient population.

“This was the first trial that showed that if you add the immunotherapy — Opdivo in this case — it actually improved survival,” says Dr. Michael Pishvaian, director of Gastrointestinal, Developmental Therapeutics and Clinical Research Programs at Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins in the Washington, D.C., area. “Our goals when trying to treat patients who (have) incurable cancers — which unfortunately, these patients fall into that category — is to help them live longer ... and to do so in a way that maintains (as high a) quality of life as possible. This trial definitely showed that the addition of Opdivo (helped patients live longer).”

And in an article, CURE® contributor and pancreatic cancer survivor William Ramshaw recalls how pushing through treatment reminded him of his eight- week stint gutting it out in Navy boot camp. Using his experience, he offers guidance to others on how to get through those grueling treatments.

One such piece of advice that stood out was how going through cancer treatment is “harder than hard,” as Ramshaw puts it, but still doable. Ramshaw’s recommendation: Take it one day at a time, surround yourself with allies, don’t be afraid to ask questions and always seek out help when it is needed.

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.