Colorectal Cancer

Dr. Charles Lopez and physician assistant Jeff Donovan, talking with a patient
Dr. Charles Lopez (left), with physician assistant Jeff Donovan (center), is an expert OHSU medical oncologist. He treats patients, including those with colorectal cancer, with chemotherapy and other medications.

The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute is a leader in colorectal cancer care and research. We deliver today’s best available treatments while exploring innovations to develop the therapies of tomorrow. Highlights of our program include:

  • A team-based approach, so you receive care from many experts.
  • Doctors and other specialists who meet weekly, combining their expertise for your care.
  • A broad range of treatments, including surgical techniques that preserve your function.
  • Innovations, including access to clinical trials that test new treatments.
  • Nurses who coordinate appointments and, if needed, provide specialized ostomy care.
  • A full slate of support services, including cancer dietitians and social workers.

Our excellence

We deliver exceptional care for all types of colorectal cancer, including cancers in hard-to-reach areas and cancers that come back after treatment.

National recognition: U.S. News & World Report ranks the OHSU gastroenterology/GI surgery program among the nation’s best. This recognition includes a top rating of “high performing” for colon cancer surgery.

Top honors for research: The Knight Cancer Institute is the only center between Seattle and Sacramento named a Comprehensive Cancer Center, the National Cancer Institute’s top designation. Our commitment to research excellence gives you access to the latest treatments, including new medications, before they are widely available.

Highly trained doctors: Our specialists have advanced training in areas such as colon and rectal surgery, cancer and gastroenterology. They can treat the most complex cancers. 

Coordinated care

Team-based care: We are the only program in Oregon in which colorectal cancer specialists meet face to face each week in a meeting called a tumor board. They combine their knowledge to develop the best treatment recommendations for each patient. Experts may include:

  • Gastroenterologists who do first evaluations and remove polyps, growths that can become cancerous if untreated.
  • Colorectal surgeons who remove tumors.
  • Medical oncologists who treat cancer using medications.
  • Radiation oncologists who treat cancer using radiation therapy.
  • Radiologists who do imaging tests to see a cancer’s size and location.
  • Pathologists who study tissue samples (biopsies) under a microscope to diagnose cancer. These specialists also determine whether the cancer is likely to be fast- or slow-growing.
  • Cancer dietitians who can help you with nutritional needs before, during and after treatment.
  • Medical geneticists who help patients assess and manage any risk of an inherited cancer syndrome.

Help navigating treatment: Nurse coordinators work with you to arrange an endoscopy for diagnosis, for example, or to prepare you for surgery. You can focus on your health.

Access to other specialists: At OHSU, you have access to any specialist you may need. If cancer treatment requires taking out a large section of tissue, for example, plastic surgeons can join the procedure to make repairs.

Ostomy support: If you need surgery, you may need a colostomy, a procedure that creates an opening (stoma) in your belly to eliminate stool. Sometimes the stoma is temporary while intestines heal. Our team includes nurses with special training to help you adjust, overcome fears and enjoy a high quality of life.

The latest technology and techniques

Expert surgical techniques: We offer you minimally invasive methods for less pain and faster healing. Our endoscopic methods need no external incision. Our laparoscopic techniques use only small incisions. We can remove tumors in difficult-to-reach areas. We are also skilled at sparing nerves and tissue needed for sexual, bladder and bowel function.

Precise treatment: The Knight Cancer Institute is a pioneer in image-guided radiation therapy to target cancer while sparing healthy tissue. We are also the only program in Oregon with a system to deliver one-dose radiation therapy during surgery.

Superior imaging: We offer advanced imaging and expertise to pinpoint the cancer and plan your treatment. Our interventional endoscopists (gastroenterologists with specialized training) do hundreds of these procedures a year:

  • Endoscopic ultrasound: This uses sound waves to produce high-definition images. This type of imaging shows multiple layers so we can see the cancer’s depth.
  • MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging offers a level of detail not possible with other imaging tests. This helps us plan surgery. 

Clinical trials and research

Our doctors and scientists are pushing boundaries through research and clinical trials. This work is improving the way we detect and treat colorectal cancer.

Dedicated research team: Our Multidisciplinary Colorectal Cancer Research Team brings providers and scientists together. They’re striving to turn discoveries in the lab into improvements in patient care as quickly as possible.

Early detection: At the Knight Cancer Institute, early detection is a key research interest. We have built a team of experts who are exploring new ways to find cancer when it’s most curable. Learn about the Cancer Early Detection Advanced Research Center.

The Knight Cancer Research Building with streetcar
The Knight Cancer Research Building on OHSU’s South Waterfront campus houses hundreds of cancer researchers working together.

State-of-the-art facilities: We opened the 320,000-square-foot Knight Cancer Research Building in 2018 to house our early-detection efforts. The building is specifically designed to encourage our hundreds of scientists to work together.

Clinical trials: We are a trusted leader in clinical trials, giving you early access to promising treatments. We offer hundreds of trials, including options for people with colorectal cancer.

Colon cancer registry: We maintain a registry with tissue samples and treatment information from people across the country with colon cancer. Our specialists review this data for clues to make treatments more effective. We are also learning more about colon cancer risks that run in families. Learn more about our cancer registries.

For patients

Call 503-494-7999 to:

  • Request an appointment
  • Seek a second opinion
  • Ask questions


Parking is free for patients and their visitors.

Center for Health & Healing Building 2
3485 S. Bond Ave.
Portland, OR 97239
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Angie Laroche was just 40 when she was diagnosed with colon cancer and treated at OHSU. She shares her story to encourage others to get screened.

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News: Read about research breakthroughs, patient care and many other topics on our OHSU News site.