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Organoid research to identify the need for invasive surgery in colorectal cancer patients

Researchers at the Cabrini Monash University Department of Surgery and the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute are collaborating to investigate a less invasive approach to colorectal cancer management by using mini lab-grown tumours or ‘organoids’ to test how rectal tumours will respond to certain therapies.

Conventional therapies for rectal cancer involve chemo or radiotherapy, coupled with aggressive surgery, which often has highly disruptive side effects including sexual and urinary dysfunction.

‘Our research discovered that almost 20 per cent of rectal cancer patients could avoid the life-altering surgery without increasing the risk of cancer recurrence,’ said Dr Rebekah Engel, Senior Research Fellow at Cabrini Institute. 

Published in May 2020 in the International Journal of Colorectal Disease, the study of 364 patients showed that 69 experienced remission after chemotherapy or radiotherapy alone. 

‘The outcomes from this study may allow us to develop a model to select patients who will be suitable for non-surgical management of their rectal cancer,’ Dr Engel said.

Organoid research to identify the need for invasive surgery in colorectal cancer patients