From the Journals

ASCO guidelines take global view of late-stage colorectal cancer



Ideally, all cases of colorectal cancer would be detected at an early and curable stage, but, as new guidelines for late-stage colorectal cancer suggest, the world is far from perfect.

“Different regions of the world, both among and within countries, differ with respect to access to early detection,” the guideline authors wrote in JCO Global Oncology. “Many regions do not have mass or even opportunistic screening, and even within regions with mass screening, subpopulations may not have access to screening.”

The guidelines were developed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Resource-Stratified Guidelines Advisory Group. Based on and adapted from existing guidelines developed by four international agencies, the ASCO guidelines take into account economic and social realities and offer recommendations for diagnosis, staging, and treatment by resource level: basic, limited, enhanced, or maximal.

“We made these guidelines to apply to countries or regions that have basic resources,” lead author E. Gabriela Chiorean, MD, of the University of Washington, Seattle, and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, said in an interview.

“We decided what should be the most basic resources – diagnostics, imaging, and treatment – that should be available to patients, and we make recommendations for the use of limited resources and supplies,” she added.

The guidelines pose and answer seven questions about optimal initial symptom management, diagnosis, and staging; optimal first and later lines of therapy; liver-directed therapy options for patients with late-stage colorectal cancer and liver metastases; and optimal on-treatment surveillance and follow-up strategies for patients treated for metastatic colorectal cancer.

For each question, the document offers guidance based on the availability of resources. As defined by the authors, the recommendations are stratified according to the following categories:

  • Basic resources – “Core resources or fundamental services that are absolutely necessary for any cancer health care system to function.”
  • Limited resources – “Second-tier resources or services that are intended to produce major improvements in outcome, such as increased survival and cost effectiveness, and are attainable with limited financial means and modest infrastructure.”
  • Enhanced resources – “Third-tier resources or services that are optional but important; enhanced-level resources should produce further improvements in outcome and increase the number and quality of options and patient choice.”
  • Maximal resources – “High-level/state-of-the art resources or services that may be used/available in some high-resource regions and/or may be recommended by high-resource setting guidelines that do not adapt to resource constraints but that nonetheless should be considered a lower priority than those resources or services listed in the other categories on the basis of extreme cost and/or impracticality for broad use in a resource-limited environment.”

The guidelines address common elements of symptom management for patients with acute disease, such as diagnosis involving the primary tumor, endoscopy when possible, and staging to include digital rectal exam and/or imaging when possible. The guidelines also include information tailored to resource level about chemotherapy and surgical resection.

“If, for example, a patient presents with bleeding and you suspect it to be of colorectal origin, we make recommendations that if the patient has symptoms of obstruction and bleeding and is resectable, they should undergo surgery, which should be available in countries of all resource levels,” Dr. Chiorean said.

The guidelines also recommend following the ASCO palliative care guidelines (J Clin Oncol. 2017 Jan;35[1]:96-112) for those patients who present with clinically unstable disease because of bowel obstruction, uncontrolled bleeding, or uncontrolled pain. Patients with clinically stable disease and ongoing bleeding from the primary tumor site are recommended to undergo transfusion and primary-site resection if only basic resources are available or transfusion plus multidisciplinary specialized evaluation when higher-level resources are available.

The ASCO guidelines are adapted from guidelines developed by Cancer Council Australia; the European Society for Medical Oncology; the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, including separate recommendation for therapy combinations (,; and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Some of these guidelines have been updated since the creation of the ASCO guidelines.

ASCO funds the guideline development process. Dr. Chiorean and other authors disclosed relationships with multiple companies.

SOURCE: Chiorean EG et al. JCO Glob Oncol. 2020 Mar;6:414-38.

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