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Research is always going on in the area of colorectal cancer. Scientists are looking for ways to prevent this cancer as well as ways to improve treatments.


New tests (including Oncotype Dx® Colon Cancer Assay, ColoPrint®, and ColDx™) have been developed that look at the activity of many different genes in colon cancer tumors. These tests can be used to help predict which patients have a higher risk that that the cancer will spread. So far, though, they haven’t been tested to see if they help predict who could benefit from chemo or other treatments.

Doctors have also found that some gene changes affect whether or not certain treatments will work. Doctors can now test for these gene changes, which may help spare some people from getting treatments that are not likely to help.



Surgeons are finding better ways to operate on colorectal cancers. They now know more about what makes colorectal surgery successful, such as making sure enough lymph nodes are removed during the operation.

Laparoscopic surgery, which is done through several small cuts (incisions) instead of one large one, is becoming more widely used for some colon cancers. This allows patients to recover faster, with less pain after the operation. This surgery is also being studied for treating some rectal cancers. More research is needed.

Robotic surgery, in which the surgeon sits at a control panel and operates very precise robotic arms to do the surgery, is also being studied.


Many new chemotherapy (chemo) drugs or drugs that are now used against other cancers are being tested to treat colorectal cancer. Ways to combine and improve drugs already in use against colorectal cancer are also being studied. Still other studies are testing the best ways to combine chemo with other treatments.

Targeted therapy

Some targeted therapies are already used to treat colorectal cancer. Doctors are looking at the best way to give these drugs. They are also looking at dozens of new ones to increase the treatment choices for people with colorectal cancer. And newer studies are looking at using them with chemo in earlier stage cancers to reduce the risk of recurrence.


Vaccines that could treat colorectal cancer or keep it from coming back after treatment are being studied. Unlike vaccines that prevent other diseases, these vaccines are meant to boost the patient's immune reaction to better fight colorectal cancer. At this time, such vaccines are only available in clinical trials.

Last Medical Review: 10/15/2014
Last Revised: 02/26/2016