Face to face with a Colon cancer researcher

On Monday 23rd September, the staff at the GI Cancer Institute were lucky enough to hear Dirkje Sommeijer, a medical oncologist working as a clinical research fellow for AGITG, speak about colorectal cancer which is more commonly known as bowel cancer in Australia. Her talk was very detailed, so what follows is a summary of Dirkje’s main points.

Biomedical Risk Factors

One of the important risk factors is genetic susceptibility. Genetic susceptibility means that if your family has had a history of bowel cancer, or other cancers  your risk of developing colon cancer is higher.
Another risk factor is your lifestyle. Some main lifestyle factors include alcohol consumption, obesity, an unhealthy diet and a lack of exercise. These factors all work to increase your risk of developing this form of cancer.


The treatment varies according to where the tumour is located in the bowel.
If you have early stage colon cancer (only confined to the colon) then treatment often includes surgery followed by chemotherapy.

If the tumour has already spread to other organs, then you are more likely to receive only chemotherapy and/or targeted therapy.

Dirkje mentioned that there is growing evidence that aspirin may have beneficial qualities in preventing colorectal cancer and might also benefit patients who have already been diagnosed with colon cancer.   A grant has been applied for to study the effects of aspirin in patients with early stage colon cancer.  Everyone is hoping the grant comes through so that the AGITG can undertake this important study.

Though survival of colon cancer has improved significantly over the last few decades, still the lives of thousands of Australians are taken by this disease. Dirkje is hopeful that ongoing research will further improve the survival rates of patients with colon cancer.

If you are interested in supporting the aspirin research, please contact Nicky Lancaster at nicky@gicancer.org.au or call 02 9562 5098.