Raman Blood Test
Bowel cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in Wales, with around 2500 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 is a significant waiting list due to stretched resources.
Cancer Research Wales has funded research over a number of years 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 analyse the 'molecular fingerprint' of patient blood samples. Through the use of advanced machine learning techniques, a computer can determine from this fingerprint whether bowel cancer is present or not with a high degree of accuracy.
Following trials in over 2000 patients, the Raman blood test was found to detect 100% of late-stage bowel cancers and 4 out of 5 early-stage cancers, far surpassing other available tests.
Although a colonoscopy is still required to confirm the diagnosis, trials of the Raman blood test in GP practices have shown that over 60% 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 assessing the effectiveness of the Raman blood test for bowel cancer screening.
Excitingly, they are further developing their approach to detect other forms of cancer, including lung and breast cancers. The ultimate goal is to have a test which can detect a range of cancers from a single blood sample.
This ground-breaking work offers the potential of earlier diagnosis for thousands of cancer patients.