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Fluorescence research could be the key to preventing bowel cancers

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 14:17
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Lectins bind differently to the bowel wall depending on whether or not the tissue is abnormal – thus identifying lesions that could develop into cancer

A study funded by the Bowel Disease Research Foundation (BDRF) has helped to improve our understanding of and to improve bowel cancer prevention through a groundbreaking investigation of fluorescent technologies. The study helped doctors during colonoscopy, using a type of plant protein called lectins to identify abnormal areas of the bowel at risk of developing into cancer.

Lectins bind differently to the bowel wall depending on whether or not the tissue is abnormal – thus identifying lesions that could develop into cancer.

“I am very grateful for all that BDRF has done for this work,” said study lead, Trevor Yeung, who is leading the project. “Without their crucial seed funding, our project would not have been able to get off the ground. Fluorescence image guided surgery is a new and exciting technology, with the potential to transform patient outcomes in the next few years. Success for this work would cement the UK’s position as one of the leading countries in translational medicine and innovation.”

The BDRF’s £30,000 grant enabled the research team to prove that lectins labelled with a special dye make abnormal patches of tissue shine differently under light from a colonoscope. This revelation has enabled the research team to roll out the technology to a major trial in humans, funded by a £635,187 grant from the Medical Research Council.

Spotting signs of bowel cancer risk before a tumour has formed would revolutionise colonoscopy, meaning flat polyps or lesions that are currently missed get picked up and treated.

Not only could this be the difference between life and death for many patients, it could also prevent major, invasive treatment down the line by letting doctors clear up problems when they first develop. This means many patients being spared the side-effects of major surgery or chemoradiotherapy. It also protects precious NHS resources at a time of increasingly stretched budgets.

“This exciting work is a great example of how small charities can make a huge difference in the field of medical research,” said BDRF CEO, Peter Rowbottom. “Without our grant to prove the effectiveness of Trevor’s original idea, these advances in screening could have been delayed by years or never started at all. We’re immensely proud and excited to see where the project goes now.”

To access the final report, 'Molecular Imaging of Dysplasia using Fluorescent Lectins in Colonoscopy and Transanal Endoscopic Microsurgery (TEMS)', please click here

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