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Huntsman Cancer Institute Leads International Colorectal Study


SALT LAKE CITY – Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah will head an international study to find out how lifestyle and other health factors impact colon and rectal cancer outcomes. HCI was awarded an $8.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to lead and expand an ongoing project in colon cancer research.

The study, called ColoCare, seeks to identify elements that play a role in the survival and recovery of colorectal cancer patients. The study will evaluate blood, saliva, and tissue samples collected during surgery, from men and women with colorectal cancer. In addition, study participants will fill out questionnaires about their lifestyle habits, including diet and exercise.

Researchers will then analyze whether health and lifestyle factors could help predict which patients improve and which do not. The data could also determine if certain patients might avoid treatments that are not as effective for their particular cancer. The information gathered is expected to help improve the clinical care and well-being of colorectal cancer patients.

Neli Ulrich, PhD, Senior Director of Population Sciences at Huntsman Cancer Institute, will coordinate the study in collaboration with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, the University of Heidelberg in Heidelberg, Germany, Cedars Mt. Sinai in Los Angeles, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and the University of Tennessee in Memphis.

The group of institutions working on the project has expanded, which will enable geographic and ethnic diversity, increasing the number of Hispanic and African-American participants. In the first phase, more than 1,400 study participants were recruited to ColoCare. With this grant money, HCI and its collaborators will raise that number to more than 4,000. Nearly 500 patients will come from Utah.

"This study represents a new paradigm in working together as a team to conquer colorectal cancer," says Ulrich. "ColoCare will provide valuable information on how lifestyle factors impact cancer outcomes. We hope to use what we learn from this study to empower people who are affected by the disease with information about how they can manage their health."

Colorectal cancer will affect one in 21 individuals over the course of their lifetime and is a leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

The ColoCare study is funded by the National Cancer Institute U01 CA206110, with additional support from National Cancer Institute P30 CA042014 and the Huntsman Cancer Foundation.

Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) is one of the world's top academic research and cancer treatment centers. HCI manages the Utah Population Database — the largest genetic database in the world, with more than 16 million records linked to genealogies, health records, and vital statistics. Using this information, HCI researchers have identified several cancer-causing genes, including the genes responsible for melanoma, colon and breast cancer. HCI is a member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (a 27-member alliance of the world's leading cancer centers) and is a National Cancer Institute-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. HCI treats patients with all forms of cancer and operates several high-risk clinics that focus on melanoma and breast, colon, and pancreas cancers. The HCI Cancer Learning Center for patient and public education contains one of the nation's largest collections of cancer-related publications. The institute is named after Jon M. Huntsman, a Utah philanthropist, industrialist, and cancer survivor.