Current Projects

Calcium

It's not just about bones

Research has shown interaction between dietary calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin D gene receptor variation. A larger study on this promising topic is underway. This link appears to be one of the strongest associations that have emerged from studies of many, many environmental agents. It appears to be important to have adequate dietary calcium.

Hormones

It's not just about hot flashes

Dietary phytoestrogen (estrogen found in plants such as soy) was shown to be associated with a small reduction in risk for CRC in one study. Confirmatory studies are underway.

Smoking

It's not just about the lungs

The risk for the so-called MSI-high type of colorectal cancer appears to be increased in those who smoke. So our message for all patients is, of course, to not smoke, and to do whatever it takes to quit smoking. There are lots of good programs to help people quit smoking. Please talk with your doctor if you are interested in learning more, or visit 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

From data comes knowledge and from knowledge comes wisdom. The new genomics has brought with it major challenges, specifically how to interpret the massive amounts of data that can be generated in laboratories. Handling and analyzing this massive amount of data is a barrier to being able to bring benefit to patients. It is now much easier to run the lab test than to calculate what the result actually means – a new problem for scientists to have. The CFR registry has been involved with several recent publications using powerful computations systems to compare family-based studies with non family based, to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each approach and make the laboratory analyses more meaningful.

The mystery deepens. In the past year, several research groups discovered and confirmed that there is a variant in a region on chromosome 8 that is present in people who develop colorectal cancer more often than it is present in people who do not get colorectal cancer. Scientists focused intense attention to this area of the human genome, only to discover that there is no gene in this region. Apparently parts of the human genome that were formerly disregarded as "junk" DNA are, in fact, critical to the regulation of our genes. This recognition has opened up a whole new area of exploration. Nature is far more complex that anyone realizes, and we enjoy our continuing discoveries.

Hereditary colon cancers

The Colon CFR has been very active in studying those uncommon families that have identifiable genetic causes for the cancer in the families. Two conditions that are being evaluated intensively are the Lynch Syndrome (Hereditary Non Polyposis Colon Cancer Syndrome) and MYH-associated polyposis. Recently, genetic testing for these hereditary disorders was conducted for some, but not all, families in the Colon CFR. After careful consideration by our Mayo research institutional review board, we were granted permission to offer these results back to the families on which testing had been done. Again, not all families were tested. If this testing was conducted on your family, then all family members will receive a letter of explanation from us, explaining how participants can obtain their results if they want to know.

Genetic linkage studies

The current knowledge about hereditary and familial causes of colorectal cancer is extremely limited. It is possible that more genes are waiting to be discovered, and the Colon CFR is undertaking a project that will try to discover new genes that may cause colorectal cancer in some families. The project involves looking at families in which more than one person has developed colorectal cancer and comparing their genes with other family members who have never had cancer. By putting together this type of information on hundreds of such families, we hope to discover new genes that are important in the tendency to develop colorectal cancer.