Liquid biopsies as a method of early detection of relapse in colorectal cancer

Development of patient-specific, blood-based tests to monitor residual disease and relapses during surveillance of patients with surgically treated colorectal cancer

Colorectal Cancer (CRC) is the 4th cause of cancer-related death worldwide, with an average of 15,000 deaths per annum in the UK and 1100 in the East Midlands. Patients with localized CRC (stage-I/III) can have their tumour removed through surgery but remain vulnerable to disease relapse. The early detection of the relapse gives the patient more treatment options and improves survival rate.

We are currently working towards the development of a blood test that allows detection of cancer relapses before clinical symptoms arise. This blood test, also known as “liquid biopsy” is possible as tumour cells release tiny fragments of DNA into the blood stream, termed cell-free tumour DNA (ctDNA), which can be isolated and analysed. Liquid biopsies are capable of detecting breast and colorectal cancers several months before current clinical methods, such as imaging.  The patient is only required to provide a blood sample and from this, not only would the presence of a cancer be detectable, but the genetic mutations that drive the cancer will also be identified, without the need for invasive surgery.

In this project, personalized blood tests will be developed to monitor colorectal cancer patients after surgery. This would hopefully improve early detection of a relapse, increasing the possibility of successful treatment and improving outcome.

More information (links open in a new tab):

Liquid biopsies

Cell free DNA as cancer biomarker