photo of Dr. Erin Kennedy

Colorectal cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canada and a leading cause of death from cancer in men and women. Mount Sinai Hospital is considered a national leader in the treatment of colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease and has the largest colorectal surgical team in the Greater Toronto Area.

For patients with stage II and III rectal cancer, chemoradiotherapy (CRT), which is the combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, is required before surgery to help decrease the risk of cancer recurrence. However, CRT has side effects, including poor bowel and sexual function and does not improve patient survival rates.

Dr. Erin Kennedy and a team of researchers from across Canada looked at whether CRT was a good fit for all patients. Their findings, which were recently published in JAMA oncology, showed that MRI scans can be used to identify patients with “good prognosis” tumours, which are less likely to reoccur. The research showed that patients with good prognosis tumours could safely avoid CRT before surgery.

“Instead of radiating every patient before surgery, we can take a more personalized, targeted approach,” says Dr. Kennedy. “With this more selective approach to the use of CRT, fewer patients will require CRT while similar oncologic outcomes are achieved.”