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Raman Blood Test

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Swansea University

Type of research

Early Diagnosis

Type of cancer


Bowel cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in Wales, with over 2000 cases diagnosed every year. Current methods to test for bowel cancer rely on faecal blood detection kits, which are unpleasant and have low accuracy, followed by a colonoscopy to confirm the diagnosis. Colonoscopies are invasive procedures, and there’s often a significant waiting list due to stretched resources. More accurate screening tests are needed to reassure more people that they are cancer-free and reduce the burden on colonoscopy services.

Cancer Research Wales funds research in the group of Professor Dean Harris and Professor Peter Dunstan at Swansea University, which aims to produce a blood test to accurately detect bowel cancer quickly and easily. The test uses a technique called Raman spectroscopy to look for changes in patient blood samples caused by bowel cancer. The test works by shining laser light onto a blood sample and measuring how light is scattered off chemicals and molecules in the blood. Samples from patients with bowel cancer have a unique ‘fingerprint’, that can detect the cancer with 95% sensitivity. Although a colonoscopy is still required to confirm the diagnosis, trials of this blood test have shown that if the test is used at the first point of contact with the GP, then a large number (42%) of colonoscopies could be avoided. This would help provide shorter waiting times for those who do need a colonoscopy and peace of mind for those who don’t.

The team are now developing their approach to determine whether they can detect other forms of cancer as well as bowel cancer, all from the same blood sample. This ground-breaking work offers the potential of earlier diagnosis for thousands of cancer patients.

Team involved

Professor Dean Harris

Swansea University

Professor Peter Dunstan

Swansea University