Colorectal AdenocarcinomaRSS

Last Updated: October 12, 2012

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What is colorectal cancer?

Colon and rectal adenocarcinomas are the third most commonly diagnosed cancers in both men and women and account for nine percent of all cancer deaths. The colon and rectum are part of the digestive system and cancer forms in the colon and/or the rectum. These digestive system cancers are often referred to as colorectal cancer. In 2010, an estimated 102,600 Americans were expected to have been diagnosed with colon cancer and another 39,670 were expected to have been diagnosed with rectal cancer. In addition, 51,370 Americans were estimated to have died of colorectal cancer in 2010.1 More than 90 percent of colorectal cancer occurs after age 50 and the average age at diagnosis is 72. When colorectal cancer has spread to other parts of the body, only 11 percent of patients will survive five years from the date of their diagnosis. Colorectal death rates have been declining since 1998, due to the increased use of screening tests that allow detection and removal of colon polyps before they progress to cancer. View additional information on colon and rectal cancer.

What have The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) researchers learned about colorectal cancer?

TCGA researchers have:

  • Recognized colon and rectal cancers as a single type of cancer.  TCGA was initially studying colon cancer as distinct from rectal cancer, but in multiple types of analyses, colon and rectal case results proved nearly indistinguishable.
  • Connected high levels of genetic errors to aggressiveness of the cancer. TCGA researchers were able to use the large sample set to confirm the known association between cancer aggressiveness and the phenomena of hypermutation, in which the rate of genetic mutations is abnormally high because normal DNA repair mechanisms are disrupted.
  • Found 24 genes that are mutated in a significant number of cases. Because of TCGA’s large scale, researchers were able to identify new potential drivers: ARID1A, SOX9, and FAM123B/WTX.
  • Observed overexpression of the genes ERBB2 and IGF2. Because these genes are involved in regulating cell proliferation, this finding indicates that there are therapeutic opportunities in inhibiting the products of these genes.
  • Identified mutations in signaling pathways. Analyses of these mutations suggest targets in the signaling pathways. A class of drugs that would target the WNT pathway already shows initial promise.

See more about TCGA's study of colorectal cancer.

Where can I find more information about the TCGA Research Network’s studies or studies using TCGA data?

View a list of TCGA scientific publications.

Where can I find clinical trials to treat colon or rectal cancer that are supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI)?

View a list of NCI-supported colon adenocarcinoma clinical trials or rectal adenocarcinoma clinical trials that are now accepting patients.

Selected References

1 American Cancer Society: Cancer Facts and Figures 2010. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society, 2010. Estimated deaths for colon and rectum cancers are combined.