While taking care of each individual has its own satisfaction, the thought that one is involved in something that has the potential to have long-lasting implications on an entire generation of future patients is unparalleled.
—Sanjay Goel, MD
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, and about 1 in 20 individuals will develop colorectal cancer in their lifetime. The good news is that improvements in screening, earlier detection, and treatments are all leading to improved outcomes for patients with colorectal cancer.
Approximately 40% of colorectal cancers have a mutation in the KRAS gene. When KRAS is mutated, certain targeted therapies for colorectal cancer will not work, leaving fewer effective treatment options for those patients.
Potential New Treatment Option for Patients
Research has shown that not all tumors have the same targets, which means that the same targeted treatments do not work for every person. Sanjay Goel, MD, Associate Professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, received a 2010 Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Advanced Clinical Research Award (ACRA) in Colorectal Cancer to help patients with colorectal cancer for whom certain targeted therapies will not be effective because of mutations in the KRAS gene.
Dr. Goel’s approach focused on developing a reovirus (RNA virus) that could be used to treat patients with KRAS mutation in their tumors. In the lab, Dr. Goel and his team found synergy between the reovirus and irinotecan, which is currently used in chemotherapy to treat colorectal cancer. The two agents interacted in such a way that magnified the effects of the irinotecan.
The second step is an ongoing clinical trial of the reovirus in combination with the standard chemotherapy protocol. Results from this study have the potential to make a big impact for patients. “If the combination is superior to current standards, it clearly could offer a new paradigm of treatment for [patients with KRAS-mutant colorectal cancer],” said Dr. Goel.
“While taking care of each individual has its own satisfaction, the thought that one is involved in something that has the potential to have long-lasting implications on an entire generation of future patients is unparalleled,” he reflected.
Impact of Conquer Cancer Foundation Grant
Dr. Goel’s first message to Conquer Cancer Foundation donors is “a very warm and heartfelt thank you.” His Conquer Cancer Foundation grant “had a deep and lasting impact on my career,” he says, an impact that is especially important in a funding landscape for researchers that is so challenging that even the most promising and passionate young researchers have a hard time pursuing their lifesaving work.
“The Conquer Cancer Foundation truly is a major player in ensuring that future research-oriented physicians stay put and help mature into future leaders,” said Dr. Goel.
Created in 2004, the ACRA program now has 15 grant recipients conducting research in multiple cancer types including breast, lung, hematologic malignancies, sarcoma, glioma, and colorectal cancer. Visit ConquerCancerFoundation.org/ACRA to learn more about the ACRA program, and please consider making a donation to support researchers like Dr. Goel. ■
© 2014. American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved.