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Prof. Richard O'Kennedy speaking about the test on RTE News



Researchers at the BDI and multinational diagnostics company, Randox, announced that they are collaborating to develop a new screening test for bowel cancer. The new test, which may be available by the end of next year, will cost €25 and will be a significant breakthrough in the diagnosis of bowel cancer.

Studies show that the identification of these very specific biomarkers will allow for a test which is more sensitive and accurate than existing screening. This means it will not only save lives, through earlier, more reliable and faster diagnosis, but because it is a simple blood test, it is hoped it will encourage more people to come forward for bowel cancer screening.

Each year almost 2,500 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer, with 1,000 dying from it; making bowel cancer the second most common cause of cancer death in Ireland. To address this, a nationwide Bowel Screen initiative has been rolled out to check those between the ages of 60-69, thought to be at high risk. This screening involves testing traces of blood in stool samples.

Drawbacks associated with this method, known as Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT), include low sensitivity, which means early stage disease is not detected in a rapid or reliable way. In addition, the nature of the sample required for these tests has resulted in worryingly low levels of patient uptake. The new blood test will do away with the need for FOBT and will prevent unnecessary and costly colonoscopies for people without the disease.

The announcement was covered widely by the Irish and International media in February 2015, with over 50 outlets covering the story. This included the RTÉnews, the Irish Times and UTV Ireland with a reach of over 20,000 on social media.

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, Dr 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 per patient, with Stage 1 treatment €18,550 – less than half, if we can catch this cancer early and treat it early, then the economic benefit will be considerable.”

The collaboration is funded by Enterprise Ireland and Randox. Initial work was supported by Science Foundation Ireland and carried out at Dublin City University and the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland and Beaumont Hospital. The inputs of Dr. Gregor Kijanka, Dr. Julie-Anne O' Reilly, Dr. Barry Byrne and Professors Elaine Kay and Dermot Kenny were vital in developing this research.