Two significant advancements in the diagnosis of bowel cancer were made by Dr Gregor Kijanka at the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute in DCU.
The first development is the discovery of biological markers that are linked with a poor survival rate for bowel cancer patients with the second being the creation of a blood test to diagnose bowel cancer at the earliest stage possible.
Kijanka’s study, which used tissue samples from over 100 patients, saw that biological markers are found at higher levels in bowel cancer patients with poor survival. The level of biological markers can be measured by a physician to predict a patient’s response to drug treatment and to tailor treatment to the needs of an individual patient.
Kijanka developed a blood test to identify the presence of bowel cancer at the earliest possible stage, stemming from his findings in the previous study. The blood test shows the presence or absence of antibodies produced by the body to fight the cancer. This early detection will lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment for patients with bowel cancer, as well as better chances of survival.
Since May 2013, this blood test has been used to assess and screen over 200 positive Faecal Immunohistochemical tests.
A patent has been granted for this blood test and if further tests are successful, the blood test may be made available as part of BowelScreen, the current National Bowel Cancer Screening programme.
Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in Ireland, with 2,400 people diagnosed annually. Kijanka is a former research fellow with the Irish Cancer Society.
Speaking about his research Kijanka said “Typically patients who experience the symptoms of bowel cancer may visit their doctor when they have a number of complaints.
This research is aimed at using these biomarkers identified in patients with bowel cancer to develop a quick, non-invasive blood test that would detect bowel cancer earlier so they are treated faster. Our other research discovery will help physicians to decide on a more personalised course of medicine which will ultimately improve patient outcomes.”