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New Colorectal Cancer Clinic, Registry For High Risk Patients Open at OHSU

Colorectal Cancer Assessment and Risk Evaluation clinic (CCARE) at Oregon Health & Science University opens

Christine Bennett-Hanes was 27 when she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

"I didn't think it was really possible for me to have cancer. I was too young," said Bennett-Hanes, now 41, of southwest Portland, and the mother of 7-year-old twins, Zoe and Henry.

This type of cancer has been in the news recently because of the disclosure by White House Press Secretary Tony Snow that his colon cancer has returned as a cancerous growth in his liver.

Colorectal cancer runs in Bennett-Hanes' family, as well as in Tony Snow's. Bennett-Hanes' mother had it at 45 and her maternal grandmother had it in her 60s. Snow's mother died of colorectal cancer.

Although Bennett-Hanes had her tumor removed and is now cancer-free; she still worries it will return. She also worries for all of her relatives because they also may be at risk for colorectal cancer. That's why she is a patient of the new Colorectal Cancer Assessment and Risk Evaluation clinic (CCARE) at Oregon Health & Science University.

Bennett-Hanes says now she can sleep at night knowing she has been thoroughly screened by a team of experts in colorectal cancer.

The new clinic, created for patients concerned about their colorectal cancer risk, brings together health professionals from medical genetics, oncology, gastroenterology, surgery, pathology, nutrition and social work. Recommendations are provided specifically for each patient, depending upon certain risk factors. If genetic testing is recommended, a genetic specialist will help patients decide whether to get tested, interpret results and discuss future health screening.  Partnering with the CCARE clinic is a newly created research program, the Oregon Colorectal Cancer Registry (OCCR).

"It's a relief to know I have a multidisciplinary team looking out for me. I feel really confident in them. With kids, I can't leave them. Nothing can be going wrong with my health. I have to stick around," says Bennett-Hanes.

"As an institution, OHSU is uniquely positioned to support a hereditary colorectal cancer clinic and research registry because of the many faculty and staff who contribute to our understanding of genetics and health. These individuals bring expertise from a variety of related fields, from oncology to genetics, molecular diagnostics to digestive health," said Dan Herzig, M.D., assistant professor of surgery (division of general surgery), and member of the OHSU Cancer Institute.

Besides protecting herself as much as possible from the return of cancer, Bennett-Hanes also chose to help future generations by participating in colorectal cancer research. She has agreed to have her tissue and blood samples be a part of the OHSU Oregon Colorectal Cancer Registry for future research purposes.

The registry was established to study the causes of colorectal cancer in families.  There are about 1,800 new cases of colorectal cancer in Oregon each year. The OCCR research program collects patient tumor and blood samples and specific health information so they can be used to study this disease. The registry arrives at a time when discoveries regarding the genetic basis of colorectal cancer are being made at a rapid pace, which can directly affect patient care.

"The registry will be one of the most comprehensive blood and tissue banks in Oregon. It will be like a giant library of colorectal cancer families that will provide a valuable resource for investigators looking for new reasons for why this cancer is passed from one generation to the next," Herzig said.

For Bennett-Hanes and her family, the registry might just provide some answers to why this cancer runs in her family. "With both the risk assessment clinic and registry, there will be a place for my family to go for that information someday," she said.

For more information about the Oregon Colorectal Cancer Registry or the Colorectal Cancer Assessment and Risk Evaluation clinic at OHSU, please call the program coordinator, Miriam Douthit at 503 494-8820.

OHSU Cancer Institute
The OHSU Cancer Institute is the only cancer center designated by the National Cancer Institute center between Sacramento and Seattle. It comprises some 120 clinical researchers, basic scientists and population scientists who work together to translate scientific discoveries into longer and better lives for Oregon's cancer patients. In the lab, basic scientists examine cancer cells and normal cells to uncover molecular abnormalities that cause the disease. This basic science informs more than 200 clinical trials conducted at the OHSU Cancer Institute.

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