40tude is providing funding for an important study to confirm that bio-markers can identify which patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) will develop cancer, which would enable more accurate stratification of colon cancer risk in IBD patients.

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 is now providing 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 this vital study is for its outcomes to be incorporated into national and international guidelines, in this case for managing the treatment of IBD patients.