Colon and Rectal Cancer Center
At the Colon and Rectal Cancer Center, our mission is to deliver compassionate, multi-disciplinary, leading-edge colon and rectal cancer care, providing patients and their families with access to a comprehensive range of services based on specialized treatment modalities and innovative research.
About the Colon and Rectal Cancer Center
We created the Colon and Rectal Cancer Center to give each patient the best outcome possible. Our Center's highly specialized clinical team brings together experts from two world-class medical centers — Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospita l— who are changing the way colon and rectal cancer is studied, diagnosed, and treated. This approach includes genetic screening, family risk assessment, specialized endoscopic treatments, minimally invasive and robotic surgery, targeted therapies, clinical trials, and recurrence prevention.
We have expertise treating patients at all stages of colon and rectal cancer, including those with straightforward diagnoses, as well as those with complex conditions who need cross-disciplinary expertise. Each of our patients receives the most comprehensive care possible. We work closely as a team to consider any and all options and create a customized treatment plan for every patient.
Our medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists, endoscopy specialists, gastroenterologists, radiologists, and pathologists work every day to improve outcomes for patients with colon or rectal cancer, as they research new ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat these diseases. We offer an approach to treatment that includes:
- The latest thinking in precision cancer medicine for colon and rectal cancer.
- Highly advanced diagnostic procedures.
- Treatment based on personalized genetic testing and current research.
- Experienced physicians who specialize in treating people with heightened genetic risk.
- Multiple clinical trials for early-stage and metastatic colon cancer, as well as for survivors of colon cancer, including trials with novel and targeted therapies and immunotherapies.
- Sphincter-preserving operations for rectal cancer patients.
- Laparoscopic, minimally-invasive and robotic surgical procedures.
- A team of surgical oncologists specializing in metastases of the liver.
- Advanced interventional radiology techniques, such as radiofrequency ablation and radioembolization.
- State-of-the-art techniques for the planning and delivery of radiation therapy, with treatment plans developed in collaboration with medical and surgical oncologists.
- Our unique Enhanced Recovery After Surgery program.
- Easy access and timely appointments, including next-day appointments, if requested.
Learn about how we diagnose and treat colon cancer.
Learn about how we diagnose and treat rectal cancer.
Our specialized team
Patients who come to the Colon and Rectal Cancer Center are seen by our highly specialized team, including some of the best practitioners in every medical discipline. Our experts' accomplishments include advancing national standards of care, conducting breakthrough research, spearheading international studies of new drugs, and forming innovative methods of preventing, diagnosing, and treating colorectal cancer.
Because we are a highly specialized treatment center with clinicians who exclusively treat these diseases, we focus on the distinct needs of people with colon and rectal cancer. This includes patients who are at every stage of the disease, from premalignant lesions to advanced malignancy that has spread to the liver or other organs. Our nurses are certified and trained in oncology nursing and specialize in caring for patients entering into, undergoing, or recovering from gastrointestinal cancer treatments.
Our physician-scientists also focus on survivorship care and have researched how lifestyle (including diet, caffeine, and exercise) impact recurrence. The results of these discoveries are integrated into treatment plans for every patient.
Our goal is to make every patient's experience at once streamlined and comprehensive. As part of your visit to the Center, we may recommend that you meet with a genetic counselor to be evaluated for inherited risks of colorectal (and other) cancers. Patients who test positive for specific syndromes are seen, at minimum, on an annual basis for ongoing management and counseling. We also provide genetic testing and support for family members who may be predisposed to colorectal cancer.
If you have surgery, you will be put on an Enhanced Recovery After Surgery pathway that we developed specifically for patients with colorectal cancer to speed up the recovery process and minimize complications. This helps you return to normal functioning earlier than you would with traditional colorectal surgical protocols.
Our priority is to treat each patient as an individual who deserves our utmost respect, compassion, and empathy. Our caregivers understand how difficult a diagnosis of colorectal cancer can be, and we are committed to finding the very best ways to meet the unique needs of each patient and their family.
More and more, targeted therapies focus on specific molecular changes in a patient's individual tumor. Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) is a leader in precision cancer medicine (also called personalized medicine). As a patient, you are offered testing of your tumor for genetic mutations. Findings from this test enable your team to create personalized treatment strategies for you, whether through standard treatments or through clinical trial therapies that may be more effective in combating your tumor. We conduct clinical trials focused on therapies that target particular changes or mutations in a tumor, including immunotherapy trials.
If you have a genetic syndrome in addition to colon or rectal cancer, you will be seen by physicians who specialize in treatments for patients who need customized surveillance after treatment.
View a slide show about research driving targeted gastrointestinal therapies looking at the genome (DNA).
We understand that cancer treatment can be challenging, both physically and emotionally. Our patients and their families have access to our full range of support services throughout treatment and recovery. This includes counseling and social work, exercise classes and consults, psychosocial support, pain and symptom management (also called palliative care), integrative therapies, and support groups.
Many of our patients work with nutrition services and meal planning counselors from the very beginning of their treatment. If you need a colostomy, you can work with specialized nurses and social workers who will teach you how to care for your colostomy and how you can be most comfortable.
Innovation and research
A dedicated research program drives our care. Physician-scientists at the Colon and Rectal Cancer Center are on the forefront of cancer research — establishing ways to improve patients' clinical and surgical outcomes, conducting international clinical trials, and partnering with basic science researchers to bring the newest treatments to patients.
Our experts in each specialty are leaders in their respective fields, regularly publishing their discoveries about new therapies, underlying mechanisms of these diseases, surgical techniques, genetic discoveries, screening, and early detection. They study every aspect of these diseases, from how they develop, to the roles that diet, caffeine, and exercise play in the health of survivors. Our discovery breakthroughs include:
- Aspirin may improve survival in patients who have already been diagnosed with colorectal cancers. Study results indicate that colorectal cancer patients who regularly took aspirin after their diagnosis had a nearly 30 percent lower risk of dying from their disease during the first decade after diagnosis than did non-aspirin users.
- Patients who are physically active after diagnosis have a lower risk of recurrence and improved survival. Our team published the first studies on exercise and colorectal cancer survival, which now have been confirmed by other groups and incorporated into national and international guidelines on the care of colon and rectal cancer survivors.
- Patients diagnosed with colon cancer who had abundant vitamin D in their blood have better survival rates than those who were deficient in the vitamin. Also, patients with stage IV colon or rectal cancer have very low levels of vitamin D. Researchers are planning a clinical trial in which these patients will take vitamin D along with standard chemotherapy.
Our innovative approach is reflected in our distinctive collaborative, multidisciplinary model of care that involves physicians, nurses, researchers, and our many support service providers. Specialists from gastroenterology, endoscopy, pathology, radiology, colorectal surgery, surgical oncology, medical oncology, and radiation oncology meet regularly to integrate care plans across specialties, streamline patient communication, and ensure that every treatment approach is considered, every step of the way.
Our expertise makes us a resource
We share our deep level of expertise by educating patients and practitioners about the latest diagnostics and treatments for people with colon and rectal cancer, and our discoveries about ways to help prevent recurrence. Our specialists regularly speak at educational conferences for the medical community, give talks on colorectal cancer throughout the world, and participate in tumor boards at various hospitals.
In addition, our Center:
- Offers second-opinion consultations and guidance to colleagues throughout the country.
- Trains future leaders in all facets of colorectal cancer.
- Functions as a home and collaborative hub for research studies on colorectal cancer.
- Provides a model for patient-centered care built on the foundation of leading-edge research.
- Works with local surgeons, oncologists, and radiation therapists throughout New England as part of the Partners Healthcare System.
- Refers to the Adult Survivorship Program, which provides access to specialists, such as cardiologists, endocrinologists, and gynecologists, as well as education and support to manage care after completing treatment.
Specialists Pioneering New Paths to Treatment
Meet our directors
Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, is a leading expert in colorectal cancer and has conducted both clinical trial research to find more efficacious therapies for treating colon and rectal cancer as well as research on diet and lifestyle in colorectal cancer survivors. He is the Co-Chair of one of the National Cancer Institute cooperative groups' committees (Alliance) focused on gastrointestinal cancers. He has served on national committees to develop guidelines for the treatment of colon and rectal cancers, including the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Cancer Society.
Ronald Bleday, MD, is chief of colon and rectal surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH). Dr. Bleday has been the principal investigator or contributor to various clinical trials on the use of local excision for the treatment of early rectal cancer and the use of laparoscopy versus open surgery for the treatment of colon cancer. He is collaborating with scientists at Harvard Medical School looking into the basic molecular mechanisms of colon cancer biology and immunology. He has also implemented new protocols for "Enhanced Recovery after Surgery" or "ERAS" and infection reduction for gastrointestinal surgery patients at BWH. He serves on the board of the Research Foundation of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgery.
At the Colon and Rectal Cancer Center of Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), our specialists are dedicated to making discoveries in every discipline.
Our medical oncologists are improving the use of chemotherapy and targeted agents through clinical trials and new treatment approaches, such as with precision cancer medicine based on genetic testing.
Our surgeons use the newest approaches, including sphincter-saving surgery for rectal cancer patients, robotic surgery, and minimally-invasive surgery.
Our radiologists are pioneering the use of imaging tests to allow optimal diagnosis and treatment of patients with colon and rectal cancer.
Our interventional radiologists use the latest techniques including radioembolization and radiofrequency ablation. They hold a weekly conference to evaluate patients with liver metastases to determine the best treatment options.
Our genetic risk experts are identifying biochemical markers of gastrointestinal cancer risk and are researching novel targets for therapy. They have deep expertise in cancer genetics and prevention.
Our pathologists work closely with our Center for Molecular Diagnostics to get a complete picture of a tumor in order to direct the appropriate therapy.
Our radiation oncologists are discovering better combinations of radiation and systemic therapies, and have identified biomarkers for the response to treatment.
Our gastroenterologists are using innovative advanced endoscopic techniques to evaluate tumors. We have expertise in removing early-stage lesions with endoscopy.
Our scientists are working to understand the fundamental biology of these cancers to identify new ways to prevent and treat these diseases in our patients.
Our support teams offer a range of programs to individuals and families, including social work, nutritional counseling, palliative care, integrative therapies, and support groups.
Our nurses, including nurse practitioners and infusion nurses, are certified and trained in oncology nursing and set new standards in caring for patients with gastrointestinal cancers.
See an entire list of our gastrointestinal cancer specialists.
To learn more, or to request an appointment, call us at 877-442-3324 (877-442-DFCI) or 617-632-3476, or complete the online form.
You may schedule your first appointment for as soon as the next day. After scheduling, one of our nurses will call you to answer your questions and help you prepare for the appointment.
Colon and Rectal Cancer Center
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
450 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215