Newswise — New Brunswick, N.J., March 2, 2018 – Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey is making experts available to discuss risk factors, treatment and prevention options surrounding colorectal cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, 140,000 new cases of the disease are expected to be diagnosed in the United States this year with about 50,000 deaths from this disease – 1,400 of those deaths are expected in New Jersey. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in the nation.

“Even if you don’t have a family history of colon or rectal cancer, don’t put off a colonoscopy,” notes Howard S. Hochster, MD, associate director for clinical research and director of gastrointestinal oncology at Rutgers Cancer Institute, who is also director of cancer clinical research for oncology services at RWJBarnabas Health. 

“We know that colon cells undergo a predictable progression from abnormal cells to polyps (adenoma) to colon cancer over five to 10 years as the cells accumulate progressive genetic abnormalities. Colonoscopy can detect and remove adenomas and therefore prevent colon cancer from occurring.  This has been shown in large prospective trials,” adds Dr. Hochster, who is an internationally recognized leader in the development of cancer clinical trials, gastrointestinal oncology and early phase cancer drugs.  

Beginning at age 50, it is recommended both men and women undergo periodic colonoscopies, fecal occult blood tests and/or other screenings that can detect colorectal cancer.  Earlier testing is recommended for people with increased risk, such as those with a family history of the disease. 

Some signs of possible colorectal cancer include:

  • Bleeding from your rectum.
  • Dark stools or blood in the stool or toilet after you have a bowel movement.
  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days.
  • Cramping pain in your lower stomach.
  • Weakness, fatigue, unintended weight loss.

Studies show that colorectal cancer may be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, keeping physically active and limiting the use of alcoholic beverages.

Howard S. Hochster, MD, is also the chair of the Gastrointestinal Committee of the SWOG cooperative group that develops and manages cancer clinical trials with cancer research partners nationwide. Study results from a recent SWOG clinical trial helped shape current clinical practice guidelines for colorectal cancer.  Along with risk factors and screening guidelines, Dr. Hochster can also discuss current treatments and the latest in research and treatment advances. A recent addition to the team, he is awaiting appointment as a distinguished professor of medicine in the Division of Medical Oncology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.  

Other Rutgers Cancer Institute experts available for comment include:

David A. August, MD, is the chief of surgical oncology at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and a professor of surgery at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.  Dr. August is also the co-director of the Gastrointestinal/Hepatobiliary Oncology Program, which is a multidisciplinary clinical and scientific program that provides comprehensive services to patients with pre-cancerous and cancerous conditions involving gastrointestinal organs, including the colon and rectum. He can discuss the importance of patients having a comprehensive evaluation under one roof with a close collaboration of multiple specialists including surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, gastroenterologists, nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, social workers and other experts.

Elizabeth Poplin, MD, is a medical oncologist and co-director of the Gastrointestinal/Hepatobiliary Oncology Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Dr. Poplin, who is also a professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, has expertise in the management of gastrointestinal malignancies including standard and novel treatment options for cancers of the colon and rectum.  She has a focus on palliative care and has an interest in supportive care issues, especially for older patients who face disease challenges that differ from younger patients.  

About Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Rutgers Cancer Institute, along with its partner RWJBarnabas Health, offers the most advanced cancer treatment options including clinical trials and novel therapeutics such as precision medicine and immunotherapy – many of which are not available at other facilities across the state.  Patients have access to these cutting-edge therapies throughout the state at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey at University Hospital in Newark, as well as at RWJBarnabas Health. 

Along with world-class treatment, which is often fueled by on-site research conducted in Rutgers Cancer Institute laboratories, patients and their families also can seek cancer preventative services and education resources throughout the Rutgers Cancer Institute and RWJBarnabas Health footprint statewide. To make a tax-deductible gift to support the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, call 848-932-8013 or visit Follow us on Facebook at