Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death and the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States, but it is preventable. While more than 90 percent of new cases occur in people 50 or older, more cases are being diagnosed at increasing rates in younger and middle-aged adults, according to a recent study.

The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center continues to lead the way to screen, treat, and manage colon cancer to help those new and existing patients understand their disease.

From Bert Vogelstein lab’s work in cancer genetics to map the colon cancer genome to checkpoint inhibitor discoveries by the Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy that showed that a subset of colon and rectal cancer patients with microsatellite instability or Lynch Syndrome were uniquely sensitive to immunotherapy to whether colonies of bacteria that grow in the colon can promote or prevent cancer growth, researchers at Johns Hopkins are breaking new ground in developing creative screening and treatment plans to help colon cancer patients.

Metastatic colon cancer patient Stefanie Joho tells her success story with immunotherapy and how it saved her life.

Contact Larry Frum, media relations manager for the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, to talk with one of our experts about how we are working on finding and treating colon cancer for the benefit of patients.

  • Microbiome: Patients with an inherited form of colon cancer harbor two bacterial species that collaborate to encourage development of the disease, and the same species have been found in people who develop a sporadic form of colon cancer. One of these species spurs a specific type of immune response, promoting—instead of inhibiting—the formation of malignant tumors. Together, these findings could lead to new ways to more effectively screen for and ultimately prevent colon cancer. Findings by Cindy Sears, M.D., describe a process in which these bacteria invade the protective mucus layer of the colon and collude to create a microenvironment—complete with nutrients and everything the bacteria need to survive—that induces chronic inflammation and subsequent DNA damage that supports tumor formation.
  • Immunotherapy: Elizabeth Jaffee, M.D., associate director of the Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and president of the American Association of Cancer Research, the leading organization dedicated to cancer research, and her experienced team are working with checkpoint inhibitors to find the best treatment to unleash the body’s own immune system against gastrointestinal cancers. T cells, the immune system’s best weapon, normally activate when the body detects something different or foreign. The BKI team is testing ways to help the body recognize cancer and fight it without harming healthy cells.
  • Colon Cancer Combo:  Colon cancer expert Nilo Azad, M.D., and Dung Le, M.D., are exploring new approaches to make colon cancer more responsive to immunotherapy. Their trials are testing new combinations of drugs to convert microsatellite-stable colon cancers, currently not responsive to pembrolizumab, to responders.