Biomarker for Colorectal Cancer in Primary Care

Led by ABMU Health Board consultant colorectal surgeon Professor Dean Harris, the team of scientists based at Swansea University’s Medical School have developed a simple blood test which may make it much easier for GPs to diagnose bowel cancer – the very first time people visit the surgery with symptoms.

The team of researchers working with Prof Dean Harris is made up of Prof Peter Dunstan, Cerys Jenkins and Rhys Jenkins. They have found that the single blood test has very high accuracy levels for either exclusion or confirmation of the presence of bowel cancer so that GPs can have a better diagnostic tool than any currently available to them.

Colorectal, or bowel, cancer is the third most-common cancer worldwide, with 41,000 cases diagnosed in the UK every year. Early diagnosis is hampered by the lack of “red flag” symptoms and patients are often not diagnosed until their chances of survival are greatly reduced.

The blood test uses a powerful, yet sensitive technique called Raman Spectroscopy, which works by shining a laser light through a sample of blood collected from patients. The final pattern of scattered light produced by the blood sample is used to create a molecular fingerprint, unique and specific for bowel cancer – much like detectives can trace a culprit from fingerprints and other evidence they leave at a crime scene. The project demonstrates the benefits of combining diverse research and clinical expertise and how interdisciplinary approaches can create step changes in developing innovation and translating ideas which have real impact on health. The Proof of Concept was funded through the AgorIP pilot programme and AgorIP is now funding clinical trials starting in GP practices across the Swansea area. The test could be used throughout the NHS within the next few years. This type of project illustrates how AgorIP can support the creation and development of new products and processes aimed at enhancing health across Wales.
This research project could be developed into an investable spinout in 2018. The project will be expanding the blood test into other areas in 2018 to include earlier detection of relapse in patients already treated for bowel cancer, and into other cancer types. Although the test is only now available within clinical trials the team hopes it can be more widely offered in the near future with GPs being able to offer the test to patients in just three to five years.

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