Stopping Colon Cancer

March 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
This year 150,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with colon cancer -- a third of them will die. A new combination of drugs, however, may stop the disease before it even starts."When they said, 'You have cancer,' I said, 'That can't be,'" Ivelisse Page, recalled to Ivanhoe.

Thirty-eight-year-old Page is a mother of four. Colon cancer was not part of her plan.

"Prayers are what have given me the peace and strength to keep going," Page said.

Colon cancer is the third deadliest cancer, but doctors are investigating if a combination of two drugs can stop it before it develops.

"We are targeting these polyps, which are risk factors," Eugene Gerner, Ph.D., director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Program at the Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson, told Ivanhoe.

Half of those over 50 will develop a colon polyp at some point in their lives. Over time the clumps of cells may turn into cancer.

"If we could stop them presumably, the mortality due to colon cancer will also go down by more than 50 percent," Dr. Gerner said.

The anti-inflammatory drug sulindac and the cancer-fighting compound DFMO were tested on people with a history of polyps. Results showed it stopped them from returning up to 95-percent of the time.

"I knew because of my age, I was at a higher risk," Linda Leighton, told Ivanhoe.

A retired school teacher, Leighton had polyps removed from her colon. She didn't want to wait to find out if they would return and enrolled in the study.

"My post screening came out that there were no polyps and I was very excited and hopeful," she said. She's a woman who's taking cancer prevention into her own hands.

The University of Arizona and University of California, Irvine are collaborating on this colon cancer research project. The new combination drug treatment is not yet approved by the FDA. More clinical trials are planned this year.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Sara Hammond, Director of Public Affairs
Arizona Cancer Center
(520) 626-2277
shammond@azcc.arizona.edu

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