Care Patterns and Overall Survival in Patients With Early-Onset Metastatic Colorectal Cancer

JCO Oncol Pract. 2021 Dec;17(12):e1846-e1855. doi: 10.1200/OP.20.01010. Epub 2021 May 27.


Purpose: Colorectal cancer (CRC) incidence in patients younger than 50 years of age, commonly defined as early-onset (EO-CRC), is rising. EO-CRC often presents with distinct clinicopathologic features. However, data on prognosis are conflicting and outcomes with modern treatment approaches for metastatic disease are still limited.

Materials and methods: We prospectively enrolled patients with metastatic CRC (mCRC) to a biobanking and clinical data collection protocol from 2014 to 2018. We grouped the cohort based on age at initial diagnosis: < 40 years, 40-49 years, and ≥ 50 years. We used regression models to examine associations among age at initial diagnosis, treatments, clinicopathologic features, and survival.

Results: We identified 466 patients with mCRC (45 [10%] age < 40 years, 109 [23%] age 40-49 years, and 312 [67%] age ≥ 50 years). Patients < 40 years of age were more likely to have received multiple metastatic resections (odds ratio [OR], 3.533; P = .0066) than their older counterparts. Patients with EO-CRC were more likely to receive triplet therapy than patients > 50 years of age (age < 40 years: OR, 6.738; P = .0002; age 40-49 years: OR, 2.949; P = .0166). Patients 40-49 years of age were more likely to have received anti-EGFR therapy (OR, 2.633; P = .0016). Despite differences in care patterns, age did not predict overall survival.

Conclusion: Despite patients with EO-CRC receiving more intensive treatments, survival was similar to the older counterpart. However, EO-CRC had clinical and molecular features associated with worse prognoses. Improved biologic understanding is needed to optimize clinical management of EO-CRC. The cost-benefit ratio of exposing patients with EO-CRC to more intensive treatments has to be carefully evaluated.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biological Specimen Banks
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Rectal Neoplasms*