Chemoprevention of colorectal neoplasia: the potential for personalized medicine

Gastroenterology. 2008 Apr;134(4):1224-37. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2008.02.012.


CRC development is a multi-step process that spans 10 to 15 years, thereby providing an opportunity for early detection and even prevention. The poor survival rate of advanced CRC has prompted the emphasis on prevention of this disease. CRC screening and removal of adenomas is an effective intervention, and is the cornerstone of prevention. However, screening efforts have had limited impact due to less than optimal compliance with guidelines. Chemoprevention involves the long-term use of a variety of oral agents that can delay, prevent or even reverse the development of adenomas in the large bowel, thus interfering with the multi-step progessing from adenoma to carcinoma. This effect is of particular importance to individuals with a hereditary prediposition to colorectal neoplasia and to those who are especially susceptile to the environmental causes of CRC. NSAIDs have drawn the most attention as chemoprevention agents. Sulindac and celecoxib are effective in promoting poly regression in high risk individuals with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP). In the more common sporadic setting the APROVe (refecoxib), APC and PreSAP (Celecoxib) trials have shown a significant reduction in adenoma recurrence but important concerns exist regarding cardiovascular toxicity associated with selective COX-2 inhibitors. These landmark studies are very important, as they provide a proof of concept that we can prevent high risk adenomas that can lead to CRC development. The ideal chemopreventive agent remains to be discovered with great emphasis on need not to harm. Possibly, combinations of agents will maximize effectiveness while limiting drug toxicity. Finally, personalized approaches will include the ability to predict risk and toxicity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Chemoprevention / methods*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Preventive Medicine / methods*
  • Survival Rate


  • Antineoplastic Agents