New clinical trial studies if adding immunotherapy to standard of care improves outcomes for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer

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Colorectal cancer, which is common in the U.S., is usually treated with a combination of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, otherwise known as the standard of care. Austin Duffy, M.D., of the Thoracic and Gastrointestinal Oncology Branch is leading a study evaluating the addition of immunotherapy to standard treatment for patients whose colorectal cancer has spread to other sites in the body.

This study will assess the effectiveness of two types of immunotherapy, a cancer vaccine and an immune checkpoint inhibitor, when added to the standard chemotherapeutic regimen. Ad-CEA is a vaccine that targets tumors, such as colorectal tumors, which express carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA). Avelumab blocks a natural “off switch” that keeps T cells from attacking other cells in the body. Avelumab thus “tricks” T cells into attacking tumor cells.

Dr. Duffy is excited to offer this experimental option because “the idea of combining a vaccine with an immune checkpoint inhibitor has a strong scientific rationale, as does the notion of adding this to oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy, which itself has immunogenic effects.” For more information on this trial, visit

Summary Posted: Wed, 03/01/2017