New clinical trial hopes to help colon cancer patients avoid surgery

Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 10:26 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month and experts say by 2030, it will be the leading cause of cancer-related deaths for people under the age of 50.

A new clinical trial at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is hoping to change the way colon cancer is treated.

This trial will use immunotherapy as a treatment for those with early-stage colon cancer to try and avoid surgery altogether.

Dr. Saima Sharif with University of Iowa Hospitals said she was inspired to start the trial by seeing how immunotherapy worked in patients who were experiencing late stages of other types of cancer.

She said they were seeing responses in people with lung cancers and melanoma. In some cases, she said the cancer would even go away.

But those were in patients with late-stage cancers.

However, with those promising results, Dr. Sharif said she started to wonder if that immunotherapy could work in people with *early-stage colon cancer to be able to skip surgery.

“That with the fact that they’ve had half of their colon taken out is, is very life altering for these patients which that it’s not temporary. As I mentioned, it’s usually permanent change of the quality of life for them. So that’s our goal to get this data and say it is safe to avoid surgery in these patients and if we are not doing them any harm by not taking their cancer out,” she said.

The immunotherapy trial begins on Monday.

Sharif said participants will be referred to the trial by gastroenterologists and surgeons already working with colon cancer patients.