Irish scientists are developing a EUR€25 (£18) blood test for bowel cancer, which could save thousands of lives by spotting the disease at the earliest possible opportunity.
The simple check will pick up on antibodies in the blood, produced as the body reacts to the onset of bowel cancer.
It is the result of a collaboration between researchers from the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute (BDI) at Dublin City University and Irish biotech firm Randox, and could be available for widespread use by the end of next year.
“If we can catch this cancer early and treat it early, then the economic benefit will be considerable
Randox MD Peter Fitzgerald
Studies show that the identification of very specific biomarkers result in a test which is more sensitive and accurate than existing screening.
Because it is a simple blood test, it is hoped that more people will come forward for screening - as well as saving lives through earlier, more reliable and faster diagnosis.
Professor Richard O’Kennedy, scientific director of BDI, said: “Typically patients who experience the symptoms of bowel cancer may visit their doctor. This new, quick and non-invasive test will help in identifying patients with bowel cancer earlier, so they are sent for colonoscopy and thus treated more effectively.
“Survival rates from bowel cancer are closely associated with the stage at diagnosis. More than half of people with bowel cancer are diagnosed in the later stages, requiring more complex treatment, with a poorer chance of survival. The aim of this new test is to find the cancer at the earliest possible stage, when it is easier to treat, improving outcomes for patients.”
The new test will be implemented on Randox’s proprietary Biochip Array Technology detection platform.
Randox managing director, Peter FitzGerald, said: “The potential here is quite revolutionary. While bowel cancer is a very serious illness, early diagnosis leads to improved survival.
“If bowel cancer is found early, the growth is typically small and can be removed, leaving the person healthy and needing less treatment. In addition bowel cancer places considerable burden on our healthcare system. Stage 3 bowel cancer treatment costs are estimated at more than €45k (£34k) per patient, with Stage 1 treatment €18,550 (£14k) – less than half.
“If we can catch this cancer early and treat it early, then the economic benefit will be considerable.”