40tude is delighted to be funding a new study which aims to develop a novel non-invasive test to improve the early diagnosis of dysplasia/cancer in IBD patients.

This aim of this collaborative project between St. Mark’s Hospital and the Institute of Cancer Research is to develop a blood test to spot early signs of cancer in people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Using the test could help target endoscopy to only those people who need it most.

The project is in an early stage, but there have been important and exciting findings to date, for example, the research team has seen a signature in the blood that, to a large extent, mirrors what is seen in endoscopic tissue samples (biopsies).

With 40tude's support it is anticipated that this project will continue to develop significantly. The team hope that the research can lead quite rapidly to a non-invasive test for early cancer detection that will benefit people with IBD around the world.  It is in a strong position to achieve this, as St. Mark’s has one of the largest cohorts of IBD patients in the world, and it has strong national and international collaborative links with IBD colleagues, providing access to many more IBD patients under endoscopic surveillance.

Once again 40tude is providing initial seed funding, as well as funding the role of a clinical research fellow for this exciting project. 

Says Professor Trevor Graham, Director of the Centre for Evolution and Cancer at the Institute of Cancer Research, “Our initial findings suggest we can see the early signs of cancer development by looking at DNA in the blood. There’s a long way to go, but we hope that our research will eventually reduce the need for people with IBD to have endoscopy.”

Some background

Around 1 in 400 people in the UK have IBD, a chronic inflammatory condition that mainly affects the large bowel.  The risk of IBD patients going on to develop colon cancer is approximately double that of the unaffected population, and is around 30% for long-term sufferers.  This high lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is the primary reason that IBD patients are enrolled in endoscopic surveillance programmes which aim to detect and treat early signs of cancer. The programme at St. Mark’s was the world’s first and remains one of the largest IBD endoscopic surveillance programmes in the world. 

However due to a number of  limitations in the effectiveness of endoscopic surveillance there is an urgent need to develop new methods to effectively stratify IBD patients by their risk of developing cancer.  The specialist team at St. Mark’s Hospital are now working with their counterparts across the world to create and then clinically test the molecular biomarkers that accurately determine cancer risk in IBD patients.

We’re delighted that an initial study we provided funding for, a study of the genetic markers in biopsy tissue, is soon to progress to full-scale clinical trials following positive efficacy testing.  40tude has also provided seed-funding for a similar pilot study which aims to confirm that bio-markers exist in faecal and blood samples also.

The ability to more accurately stratify the risk of colon cancer will allow limited surveillance resources to be directed at the patients deemed most at risk, while avoiding potentially unnecessary interventions for those who are identified to be at lower risk.  This is all the more essential at this time following the recent widespread disruption to screening programmes as a result of Covid-19.   

As for all 40tude-funded projects, the goal of these vital studies is for their outcomes to be incorporated into national and international guidelines, in this case for managing the treatment of IBD patients.

The above information has been adapted from programme summaries written by project leaders Professor Trevor Graham, The Institute of Cancer Research and Professor Ailsa Hart, St Mark’s Hospital