Australian scientists say the new study could save the lives of thousands of bowel cancer patients.
Credits: REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder
A team of Australian scientists says it has identified new genes that show identifiable changes in the blood of people with bowel cancer.
The group says the discovery not only "has the potential to underpin a new cost-effective blood test that would signal the early stages of bowel cancer," but "could potentially save thousands of lives by supplementing existing screening programs and encouraging those at risk to have a colonoscopy."
They presented their research - the result of five years of collaboration - at the Digestive Disease Week 2012 conference in San Diego Sunday.
A new blood test for bowel cancer based on these discoveries is now being developed and is currently being tested with patients from Australia, the United States and Europe, the researchers say. The Australian team is hoping to attract interest from other clinicians and scientists around the world to help them further validate the test.
Dr Lawrence LaPointe, the CEO of Australia's Clinical Genomics, said the tests have shown a high detection rate for bowel cancer while also demonstrating a false positive rate of about 5% in samples drawn from a high-risk population.
"These clinical trial results are highly promising but we need to go one step at a time. The next step is to seek help from other groups and researchers to cast the net more broadly to see what we can achieve with a larger number of tests drawn from a sample of the general population," Dr LaPointe said in a statement. "There is still some time to go before a blood based test of this nature might be broadly available to a community but the technology is clearly worthy of broader, rigorous testing."
Graeme Young, a professor at the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer at Flinders University in Adelaide, said early detection of bowel cancer is crucial.
"One of the key questions is how a test like this might complement existing screening efforts in a cost-effective way to save even more lives in the future," Young said.