+ -Text Size

Colon Cancer Research Highlights

For more than 65 years, the American Cancer Society has been finding answers to critical questions about colorectal cancer (commonly called colon cancer) – what causes it, how can it be prevented, detected, and treated successfully, and how colon cancer patients’ quality of life can be improved.

These efforts have contributed to substantial decreases in colon cancer mortality over the past two decades. Despite this progress, colon cancer is still the third-deadliest cancer in the U.S., and the Society is committed to saving more lives from this lethal disease.

From ACS Researchers

The American Cancer Society employs a staff of full-time researchers who relentlessly pursue the answers that help us understand how to prevent, detect, and treat cancer, including colorectal cancer.

Society epidemiologists Rebecca Siegel, MPH, and Ahmedin Jemal, DVM, PhD, biennially publish Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures, which provides detailed analyses of colon cancer incidence and mortality trends in the U.S., as well as the latest information on risk factors, early detection, treatment, and current research.

Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2014-2016 published March 17. Highlights from the report include:

  • In 2014 about 136,830 people are predicted to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the U.S., and about 50,310 people are predicted to die of the disease.
  • In both men and women, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death.
  • While large declines in colorectal cancer incidence and death rates in the past decade have been attributed to increased colonoscopy use, only 59% of people aged 50 or older, for whom screening is recommended, reported having received colorectal cancer testing consistent with current guidelines in 2010 according to the National Health Interview Survey.


The report concludes that significant progress in the prevention and early detection of colorectal cancer is possible by increasing access to and utilization of colorectal cancer screening tests.

The Society’s internal research team is also:

  • Analyzing data on an ongoing basis from Cancer Prevention Study II (CPS-II), which ACS began in 1982, to continue to investigate linkages between lifestyle and colon cancer.
  • Conducting a new multi-year cancer prevention study, CPS-3, to better understand ways to prevent cancer, including colorectal cancer.


Get the latest colon cancer research news >

ACS-Funded Research and Training Grants in Colorectal Cancer*

The Society also supports an Extramural Grants program that funds individual investigators engaged in cancer research or training at medical schools, universities, research institutes and hospitals throughout the U.S. Following rigorous and independent peer review, the most innovative research projects are selected for support.

Total ACS grants currently in effect addressing colorectal cancer: 102
Total ACS grant funding currently committed to colorectal cancer: $34,889,285

Spotlight on grantees: The following are some of the colorectal cancer investigators currently being funded by the American Cancer Society who are working to find the answers that will save more lives and better prevent, treat, and manage colorectal cancer.  

Prevention and Early Detection

Jennifer WeissJennifer Weiss, MD, at the University of Wisconsin, is conducting research to inform the creation of a toolkit that will help healthcare systems nationwide increase their colorectal cancer screening rates.




Connie ArnoldConnie Arnold, PhD, at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, is testing different health literacy interventions to increase colorectal cancer screening among low-income and underinsured populations.




Charles BaschCharles Basch, PhD, at Columbia University Health Sciences Center in New York is leading a study to determine whether in hard-to-reach, low-income, minority populations it is more effective to educate individuals directly via phone about colorectal cancer screening or to reach out in person to primary care physicians.



Gregory CooperGregory S. Cooper, MD, at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio is researching the implications of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) on cancer screening outcomes, including colonoscopy. Cooper says his study will represent one of the first efforts to evaluate the impact of healthcare reform at the population level.





Karen GuilleminAllison V. Banse, PhD, at the University of Oregon, is studying how gut bacteria influences the rate of cell turnover in the lining of the gut, a process which goes awry in colorectal cancers. Banse wants to identify which individual members of the gut bacteria community are able to modulate cell proliferation to better understand how microbial signals contribute to colorectal cancer. She hopes her work will lead to new colorectal cancer treatments such as probiotics.


close up of dropperMark R. Frey, PhD, at The Saban Institute, is studying the molecular changes that drive tumor formation in order to inform the development of new effective targets for colorectal cancer detection and therapy. Specifically, Frey is exploring the possibility that a protein called ErbB4 stimulates the growth and metastasis of colon cancer cells.



Allred Clinton Clinton Allred, PhD, at Texas A&M University, is researching the role of estrogen in the suppression of colon tumor formation. Allred is also studying dietary compounds that act like estrogen, called phytoestrogens, which may lead to the development of recommendations that will enable patients to alter their diet in an effort to reduce risk of colon cancer.



older cancer patient in wheelchairKristen Admiraal, MSW, at Michigan State University, is conducting a study to better understand how colorectal cancer treatment affects quality of life outcomes among older adults.



*Information current as of August 1, 2014.

Other Ways ACS Fights Colorectal Cancer

In addition to conducting and funding colorectal cancer research, the American Cancer Society helps fight colorectal cancer through education, support services, and advocacy. Explore how the Society helps>