A blood test to help guide the treatment of esophageal, stomach and bowel cancers will be evaluated in a new Flinders University trial set to get underway. The trial is thanks to a federal government grant of almost $2 million announced yesterday, with Flinders University awarded funding for three projects, totaling $5.8 million.
The research builds on a successful collaboration between Flinders University, CSIRO and biotechnology company Clinical Genomics that developed a blood test for bowel cancer. The blood test is currently offered under the brand name COLVERA® in the US as a tool to aid in the detection of cancer relapse after treatment.
The new successful grant is based on further research supported by the Flinders Foundation that showed the test used for bowel cancer could also be used to detect esophageal and stomach cancers.
Now, a Flinders University-led research team will expand clinical trial studies to determine whether the test can be used for new indications such as monitoring the treatment of gastrointestinal cancers. Together, gastrointestinal cancers of the esophagus, stomach and bowel accounted for the second most common cancer group in Australia in 2020.
Lead researcher Associate Professor Erin Symonds, from SA Health and Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute, says a quick and effective test to monitor a cancer patient’s treatment response would revolutionize how we manage and care for affected patients.
“Currently, there is no simple and sensitive test that informs how well a patient is responding to treatment, be it chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery,” says Associate Professor Symonds. “Patients are either treated according to existing medical convention, or the cancer needs to be detected by a scan, at which point changing the treatment options may be too late.
“And it’s not just being able to change treatments that’s important for saving lives. If a patient is responding well to treatment, a test result may mean avoiding risky surgery or at the very least bring hope to the patient that treatment is on the right track.”