Australian Scientists Just Launched A Better Test For Bowel Cancer Detection

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Australian scientists from CSIRO and Flinders University have developed a new, more accurate blood test to detect bowel cancer.

The test is called Colvera, launches in the US from today, and is expected to be available in Australia from early next year.

More than 600,000 people a year die from bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer), and 15,000 people are diagnosed every year in Australia alone.

In 30 to 50 per cent of cases the disease will recur, usually in the first two to three years following initial diagnosis and treatment, and testing for recurrence is traditionally done with a blood test for CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) along with CT scans.

"By providing clinicians with a new blood test that is more sensitive for recurrence than CEA, Colvera increases the likelihood of detecting curable recurrences of CRC, with the ultimate aim of saving lives," CSIRO Scientist Dr Trevor Lockett said.

Dr Lockett said today's announcement is the result of a highly successful collaboration between the CSIRO, Flinders University and Clinical Genomics - an Australian founded, global biotechnology company aiming to reducing the impact of colorectal cancer through the early detection of disease. The company has partnered with CSIRO since 2003

"There was a clear alignment between Clinical Genomics with its product, CSIRO's technologies and the clinical expertise of Flinders University," Dr Lockett said. "It's a real success story of science partnering with industry to create impact, and has provided an excellent learning opportunity for researchers to see science being applied with a business and intense product focus."

President and CEO of Clinical Genomics Colvera, Lawrence LaPointe, said the test can indicate early molecular changes associated with cancer development.

According to Professor Graeme Young of Flinders Center for Innovation in Cancer, current professional guidelines recommend the combination of the test for CEA with regularly scheduled CT scans for detection of recurrence in bowel cancer patients.

"However, CEA has not proven to be as effective as we would like and is subject to false-positive results related to non-cancer events such as smoking," Professor Young said. "Our study has shown that Colvera is significantly more sensitive for bowel cancer than CEA and as such provides us with an improved, simple test that increases the likelihood of detecting curable recurrence."

Colvera is now available in the USA through Clinical Genomics' Bridgewater New Jersey laboratory. It is hoped that Colvera will be available in Australia as early as next year.