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New bid to stamp out bowel cancer
Flinders researchers awarded A$553,196 for blood test to detect bowel cancer

Flinders cancer experts have been awarded a grant of A$553,196 to improve the survival and recovery of colorectal cancer patients via a simple blood test.

Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers in Australia. Each day, 46 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in Australia while approximately 11 people die from the disease.

Cancer Australia says less than 50 per cent of cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed at an early stage when it can be most successfully treated. In Australia, 24 percent of bowel cancers were diagnosed at stage three and 18 percent at stage four.

Chief investigator Dr Erin Symonds, principal medical scientist and team leader of the Bowel Health Service at Flinders Medical Centre said, “Despite surgery, approximately one-quarter to one-third of patients will have the cancer return within three years”.

Together with her team, they have developed and evaluated a blood test that can detect bowel cancer and if it can also be used to determine which patients are at higher risk for cancer recurrence.

If detected early, up to 90 percent of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated.

"The blood test will hopefully be used to determine how best to treat a patient after their bowel cancer is surgically removed.

“This would allow specialists to focus therapies, especially chemotherapy, on those who are likely to most benefit - and avoid it in those who do not need it," she said.

The Cancer Australia research project, entitled ‘Personalising treatment and surveillance for colorectal cancer: prognostication with the circulating tumour-derived methylated DNA markers BCAT1 and IKZF1,’ builds on research in the field at Flinders.

The research will use the pioneering 'Colvera' blood test in patients who have already had bowel cancer - whatever their age.

A recent analysis by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that bowel cancer screening is effective in reducing bowel cancer death rates, yet participation remains low at 41 per cent.

The Australian Government is aiming to send a kit every two years to people aged 50-74 by 2020.

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