Ongoing Research Funded by DHF

Unprecedented Use of DNA Modeling to Identify Lifetime Risk for Colon Cancer

Principal Investigator: Mohammad Ali Abbass, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery (Gastrointestinal), Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related death in the United States, but it is also largely preventable with screening. The Abbass team is identifying a genetic tool based on blood samples that can accurately predict an individual’s lifetime risk for developing colorectal cancer. The researchers will use DNA extracted from blood specimens of Northwestern Medicine patients who have either been diagnosed or confirmed clear of colorectal cancer. They will then evaluate changes that occur in the DNA building blocks to validate a polygenic risk score established for European patients. The aim is to use this score to identify patients who lack a family history for colorectal cancer but who should potentially begin their colorectal cancer screening before age 45, the age currently recommended to begin screening. The project could lead to a larger scale study that would target a more expansive population to initiate earlier screening in selected patients and decrease colorectal cancer-related deaths in younger patients. As a result, many people could more accurately know their individual genetic risk, pursue earlier screening if indicated, and detect colorectal cancer earlier, improving their chances of survival.

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