Get it right and get it early

21 December 2017

An Australian collaboration has launched a new blood test for bowel cancer in the US.

The scientists from CSIRO, Flinders University and Australian company Clinical Genomics developed the test to enable clinicians an earlier and more reliable detection of recurring bowel cancer.

In 30-50% of bowel cancer cancer cases some cancer cells will survive the treatment and form new tumours.

At present, the recommended method of monitoring such bowel cancer recurrence is a blood test for the carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), usually in combination with regular CT scans.

However, while CEA is an established marker that is elevated in bowel cancer, its levels can also be raised by other factors such as smoking.

Hence the CEA test often leads to false positives.

The Colvera test is specific for genes that are 'epigenetically' modified in colorectal cancer and are present in DNA fragments leaking from cancerous lesions into the bloodstream.

Minute amounts of these fragments are amplified and then detected based on a method known as polymerase chain reaction.

According to Clinical Genomics, in recent clinical trials Colvera was found to be more than twice as sensitive for recurring bowel cancer than the CEA test.

And being able to reliably detect the cancer early ultimately could increase the likelyhood of diagnosing the reemerging cancer at a curable stage.

In the US, Colvera is now available through Clinical Genomics' Bridgewater New Jersey Laboratory, while it will take at least until early next year before Australians will have access to the new test.

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