Bowel cancer detected earlier with a simple blood test

By Fiona Ross

21 December 2016

3 minute read

Bowel cancer can now be detected earlier and more accurately with a simple blood sample.

UPDATE 31/8/17: Congratulations to our Colvera team on winning the 2017 Eureka Prize for Innovation in Medical Research!

Every year in Australia around 15,000 of us will be diagnosed with bowel cancer – a cancer of the large bowel that is sometime referred to as colorectal cancer. A diagnosis often leads to surgery and treatment, and for many, ongoing monitoring for years to come.

For patients and their families, recurrence of the cancer is one of the greatest worries they face following treatment. This isn’t surprising when you consider  they have about a 30 to 50 percent chance that the disease will recur.

The current method for monitoring recurrence is through a blood test for CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) and regularly scheduled CT scans. Unfortunately CEA, a forty-year-old test, has not proved to be as effective as many doctors would like to see and is also subject to false-positive results for non-cancer related events, such as smoking – causing added stress and worry to patients.

Many patients, their families and medical professionals will welcome a significant development in the monitoring of bowel cancer.

Working with our partners Clinical Genomics and Flinders University, we have created a new and more accurate way to monitor for recurrence of the disease, and it’s a simple blood test. Known as Colvera™, it has just been released in the US and is hoped that it will be available in Australia as early as next year.

Colvera can indicate early molecular changes associated with cancer development. Studies have shown it to be nearly twice as effective as CEA.

“Today’s announcement is the result of a highly successful collaboration between the three organisations,” said one of our key scientists Dr Trevor Lockett. “It’s a real success story of science partnering with industry to create impact.”

What will Colvera mean for patients?

With this new test, patients who have already been through their initial diagnosis and treatment will have a much better chance of having any recurrence of bowel cancer detected early – giving their doctors the best information possible to act on.

Ultimately, the aim is that Colvera will ensure more lives can be saved from bowel cancer – providing more hope to thousands of people who are living with this disease now and in the future.