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QIMR Berghofer study to provide risk score for bowel cancer

A QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute scientist has launched an Australian-first study designed to prioritise high-risk patients on colonoscopy waiting lists.

Associate Professor Graham Radford-Smith, who is also a gastroenterologist at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH), said demand for colonoscopies was outstripping supply and leading to lengthy waiting lists.

“It’s great that a growing awareness of bowel cancer is convincing more people to take up the option of screening, particularly when they’re over 50 and the risk increases,” Professor Radford-Smith said.

“But one major concern is the lack of correlation between symptoms and the presence or absence of polyps or bowel cancer.

“This is a gap in clinical practice. Patients with serious bowel disorders may be in the colonoscopy queue alongside individuals with either a benign disorder or no abnormality because the process of colonoscopy prioritisation – also known as “triaging” – is based upon symptoms and not objective laboratory tests,” Professor Radford-Smith said.

Over 500,000 colonoscopies are performed in Australia every year. Most of those patients will have gone to their GP with worrying symptoms including stomach pain, or rectal bleeding. However, only a limited number undergo further relevant tests before having their colonoscopy.

“By collecting detailed health information, and conducting blood and faecal tests, we hope to develop a risk score to predict a person’s risk of abnormality in the bowel, and determine how urgently a colonoscopy is required. This will be driven by a combination of good clinical and scientific research,” Professor Radford-Smith said.

He will recruit 1000 GP-referred patients over two years, in conjunction with RBWH and Prince Charles Hospital.

This study is partly funded by the 2012 Rio Tinto Ride to Conquer Cancer.

“I’d just like to say a special thank you to the riders who slogged it out over 200 kilometres to advance our research. They’ve made a real difference to research into a common and deadly cancer.”

Watch Associate Professor Graham Radford-Smith explain this research further at: