02 Jan 2008

New test for predicting risk of colorectal cancer

A new test is being developed that will be able to predict whether someone is at risk of colorectal cancer.

With a grant of £50,000 from World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) the team at The Open University are looking to produce inexpensive disposable sensors for the non-invasive monitoring of cancer biomarkers in patient urine samples. This new generation of sensors would be rapid, user-friendly and robust for the clinical monitoring at the physician’s offices or at the patient home, without the need of sending samples to a laboratory for analysis.

The current test for colon cancer is to take cells from the colon and analyse them for signs of damage that can lead to cancer forming. But this procedure is invasive and cannot be carried out in large numbers. By developing the urine test to look for early signs of colon cancer many more people could be screened and given advice on how to reduce their risk.

Leading the study is Dr Maria Velasco-Garcia at the Department of Chemistry and Analytical Sciences. She said: “We are very excited about this piece of research as it will mean that more people can be screened before the cancer has started to develop.

“Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, affecting around 36,000 people each year. If we can predict that someone is at high risk of developing the disease then we can provide the appropriate advice to stop it spreading.”

Dr Greg Martin, Head of Science and Research at WCRF, said: “This piece of research is going to dramatically change how we diagnose cancer of the colon. It will be much quicker and less unpleasant than the current method so that will be better for the patient. They will then be able to make changes to their diet to minimise the risk to their health.

Research by the charity shows that eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight will go a long way to reducing risk of cancer of the colon.

A diet high in red meat and alcohol has been shown to increase risk of the disease. Other foods that have been shown to probably increase risk are saturated fat, processed meat and sugar.

For more information or to interview Dr Velasco-Garcia or Dr Greg Martin, please contact Louise Brown, Deputy Head of Communications, on 020 7343 4207.

Editor's Notes

The research will be based on a number of urine samples from people who have been taking part in a large scientific study that is looking at the relationship between diet and cancer. Some people in the study were eating large quantities of red meat (up to 420g/15oz a day) and it is expected that there will be more signs of cell damage in these people.

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