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Trial for bowel cancer blood test shows promising results in early-stage detection

By May 20, 2022No Comments

A new blood test for bowel cancer developed by the University of Swansea is showing promise in the detection of early-stage cancers. The project has been co-funded by Cancer Research Wales and a GP-led trial of the method demonstrated it picking up around 80% of early-stage cancer cases. Initial data indicated that the blood test has greater sensitivity for the detection of bowel cancer compared to other similar tests currently available in primary care. The blood test means people will be able to avoid more invasive tests, like a colonoscopy. As such, its success could lead to it being adopted by the NHS, potentially within two years.

The Raman Spectrometry (RS) blood test has been developed by the Swansea researcher team, led by Professors Dean Harris and Peter Dunstan. Support from Life Sciences Hub Wales has now enabled Welsh start-up business, CanSense, to secure an additional £1.2m from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to further develop the blood test to use across Wales.

Ann Tate, CEO of Cancer Research Wales, said the results from the test’s trial were ‘exciting’, and highlighted the difficulty in diagnosing bowel cancer. She added that the test is about ‘eight to nine years in the making’. The test uses a footprint approach to detecting cancer. “What this does is take a small sample of blood and fires lasers through it. It gives a pattern and using AI [artificial intelligence], the pattern can be checked to see if the cancer has leaked into the blood”, explained Ms Tate.

Bowel cancer has been spotlighted in the media due to the terminal diagnosis of Dame Deborah James, an English journalist, podcast host and blogger. Dame Deborah has urged the public to attend a GP check-up if they have concerns about worrying signs or symptoms. Many of the 2,200 people diagnosed with bowel cancer a year in Wales are at an advanced stage.

Adam Bryant, CEO and business founder of CanSense , said: “For the past eight years, our team has dedicated itself to creating something that we believe is as exciting as it is revolutionary. We now have a proven, rapid, and affordable test that can save thousands of lives. With continued collaboration and funding, we now have a clear path to making this test available to GPs in Wales and beyond.”

Signs of bowel cancer include: blood in the stools, abdominal pain, or a persistent change in bowel habits. To detect cases of bowel cancer sooner, everyone aged 60 to 74 who is registered with a GP and lives in England is automatically sent a bowel cancer screening home test kit every 2 years.

According to Bowel Cancer UK, nearly 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK. Around 268,000 people living in the UK today have been diagnosed with the disease.