Stopping bowel cancer before it starts

Newly funded BDRF research aims to develop tests for precursors to bowel cancer which could help doctors stop tumours from developing.

Many bowel cancers start in polyps – small, wart-like growths on the inside of the bowel wall. If polyps with the potential to become cancers could be detected and removed via screening we could stop the disease in its tracks.

BDRF-funded research scientists are aiming to develop simple urine and faecal tests able to spot these potentially cancerous polyps. The team encompasses specialists based in Leicester, Manchester, Coventry, Warwick and York.

Their study is the second phase of work that has already produced promising results. Now, the team need to prove their hypothesis in a larger set of patients.

Early detection of bowel cancer is absolutely crucial to stopping people dying from the disease. When caught early cancer is far more treatable – with around 95% of patients whose cancer is spotted at the earliest stage surviving for more than 5 years (according to Cancer Research UK figures).

Sadly, and despite the introduction of much-needed national screening programmes, all too many cases are still caught later on. By then treatment is gruelling and the chances of success significantly lower.

If our new project successfully proves these tests can identify early cancers, it would provide the evidence to begin incorporating the tests directly into clinical practice, a major step toward improving early diagnosis and ultimately saving lives.

It could also enable the NHS to streamline its screening procedures, preventing people being sent for colonoscopies unnecessarily, alleviating pressure generated by the growing impact of bowel cancer and meaning patients have a less disruptive experience – only requiring relatively minor yet highly effective treatment.

Click here to read more about this study

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