Beating bowel cancer together

Improving use of the faecal immunochemical test

Lead Researcher: Professor Robert Steele

Location: University of Dundee

Grant award: £110,151

The faecal immunochemical test (FIT) is a test used to look for blood in poo, which could be a sign of bowel cancer or pre-cancerous growths (polyps). Professor Robert Steele and his team are investigating ways to improve how FIT is used to improve early diagnosis of bowel cancer. 

The challenge

FIT is used as part of the bowel cancer screening programme and also used for some patients who visit their GP with potential symptoms of bowel cancer.

FIT looks for hidden blood in poo. This can be an indication of bowel cancer or a pre-cancerous growth (polyp). The results of this test can help decide which patients need further tests such as a colonoscopy (a long tube with a camera on the end, used to look inside the bowel).

FIT isn’t always able to detect or rule out bowel cancer effectively. There’s an urgent need to improve this, so that more people can be diagnosed with bowel cancer at an early stage.

The science behind the project

This study will use large, high-quality databases to link FIT results with other patient information, such as age and gender that is known to affect the amount of blood in poo.

The researchers will use this detailed data to determine whether some patients need to complete a more sensitive screening test dependent on their overall risk, leading to earlier diagnosis for some and less unnecessary investigations, such as colonoscopies, for others. 

What difference will this project make?

This research has the potential to accelerate diagnosis of bowel cancer, reduce demand on colonoscopy services and avoid unnecessary colonoscopies in those who won’t benefit.

Making better use of the colonoscopy services available and being able to interpret results in a more meaningful way, means significant improvements in the sensitivity of screening could be made in the future. This could ultimately mean many more people are diagnosed earlier.



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