Andrea Cercek

Fighting cancer

2 minute read

Dr. Andrea Cercek is co-director of the Center for Young Onset Colorectal Cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. It’s an unfortunately relevant position: for reasons not yet completely known, colorectal cancer in young people is on a steep rise. Millennials today are twice as likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer as those born in 1950.

Cercek is currently leading a groundbreaking clinical trial on a specific type of rectal cancer in young people. The goal is to preserve their quality of life by treating disease using only immunotherapy, and the early results, which were first published in 2022, are astonishing. “We expected that patients would respond well, but we did not expect that all of the patient’s tumors would disappear with immunotherapy alone, foregoing the need for radiation or surgery,” says Cercek. The success of the trial prompted Wales to approve immunotherapy for the treatment of this type of rectal cancer in 2023. 

Cercek is now expanding and enrolling new patients in the U.S. trial with hope of eventually gaining FDA approval for the treatment. Other doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where Cercek works, also plan to try this approach with other cancers that have similar mutations. “These discoveries will impact not only my own patients, but patients around the world,” Cercek says. “That is the most important and most rewarding part of my work.”

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