Northern Ireland develops test to identify recurring colon cancers


A new test, which is able to detect the likelihood of colon cancer recurring in certain patients, has been developed by a Northern Irish company.

The company Almac, which is based in Craigavon in Armagh, says its test can detect the likelihood of stage two colon cancer recurring in patients who have had surgery. This may help identify patients who would benefit from chemotherapy and this would help overall survival rates, the company has claimed.

Over 2,000 new cases of colon (bowel) cancer are detected in Ireland every year and almost 1,000 people die of the disease annually.

There is a relatively good prognosis if the cancer is detected at stage two. Around four in five of these patients will be cured by surgery, however in the remaining one in five patients, the disease will recur within five years.

According to Almac, while these one in five patients may benefit from chemotherapy, until now, there has been no test available to help doctors to identify them.

“We have used complex technologies designed in Craigavon to examine tumour samples from around the world to identify a genetic signature which tell us the likelihood of stage two colon cancer recurring. This technology will make it much more straightforward for doctors to identify high risk patients who may benefit from chemotherapy,” explained Prof Paul Haskin of Almac and Queen’s University Belfast.

He described the test as a ‘significant breakthrough in how colon cancer can be managed’.
“We believe it has the potential to change clinical practice and save the lives of some cancer patients,” he insisted.

It is hoped that the test will become available to patients within the next few years. Details of it are published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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