Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in Germany among both men and women and thus is a major public health problem. Epidemiological research has identified multiple lifestyle factors as risk factors, including a Western diet with highly cooked meat, lack of physical activity and smoking, while high intakes of vegetables and use of aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are thought to be preventive. In addition, genetic factors have been identified as modifying colorectal cancer risk, both among high-risk families and common inherited genetic polymorphisms, which often act in conjunction with health behaviours. However, minimal research has investigated whether health behaviours can alter a patient’s surgical recovery, treatment response and outcomes. One key question is: What can patients do for themselves to improve their prognosis and well-being?
In addition, we now have made much progress in tailoring treatment and therapies for colorectal cancer patients. With a multitude of available treatment strategies and at most a partial response to most chemotherapies at high cost, it is critical to define at diagnosis who will benefit from a treatment and who won’t. Identifying biomarkers that predict prognosis is another important avenue of research and to this end, we investigate blood, urine, and the bacteria living in the colon (gut microbiome).
To answer these many important research questions related to cancer prognosis we are establishing a prospective clinic-based cohort study of about 3000 colorectal cancer patients, the ColoCare study. This study is interdisciplinary and international, collaborating with ColoCare Centers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. Researchers with background in oncology, surgery epidemiology, nutrition, molecular biology, epigenetics, and many other disciplines collaborate in ColoCare.
The ColoCare study is recruiting colorectal cancer patients at diagnosis at the Heidelberg University Clinics and will follow them for up to ten years. In order to learn as much as possible about the patients’ activities and health status, we ask a range of questions on their lifestyle and well-being and collect blood, urine, stool and tissue samples. We very much appreciate the contributions that ColoCare study participants make by donating their time and participating in collection of specimens. Together we can make significant progress to improve disease prognosis and treatment options for colorectal cancer patients.