Introduction to GI cancer

GI tract cancer is a collective term used to describe cancers that affect the digestive system. Worldwide, the most commonly diagnosed GI cancers include: colorectal cancer (CRC), gastric cancer, liver cancers (e.g. hepatocellular carcinoma [HCC]), esophageal cancer and pancreatic cancer.1

Less common GI cancers include those affecting the anus, appendix, bile duct, gallbladder and small intestine,2,3 as well as GI neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) and stromal tumors (GISTs), which are characterized by their cell type of origin.4,5

Watch Dr Victoria Zazulina (Corporate VP and Global Head of Oncology Medicine) discuss Boehringer Ingelheim’s research focus on GI cancers in the video below.

Disease burden

GI cancers are responsible for more cancer-related deaths than any other type of cancer.6 In 2020, they accounted for an estimated 3.5 million deaths worldwide, with a further 5.0 million new cases diagnosed in the same year.

Common types of GI cancer

CRC is the most common type of GI cancer, with 1.9 million new cases diagnosed worldwide in 2020, making it the third most common of all organ cancers, after lung and breast.6

In the same year, gastric (or stomach), liver, esophageal and pancreatic cancers were ranked the fifth, sixth, eighth and twelfth most commonly diagnosed cancers, with 1.1, 0.9, 0.6 and 0.5 million new cases worldwide, respectively

Common GI cancers ‘at a glance’

CRC

CRC occurs when a growth in the lining of the large intestine (colon), or at its end (rectum), becomes cancerous. It is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in men and women, worldwide.6

Approximately 25% of patients with CRC present with metastases at the time of initial diagnosis, and almost a half go on to develop metastases at some point, contributing to its high mortality rate.7