Bowel Research UK funded research is clearing the path to better bowel cancer prevention, through a groundbreaking investigation of fluorescent technologies.

The work aims to help doctors during colonoscopy, using a type of plant protein called lectins to identify abnormal areas of the bowel at risk of developing into cancer.

Lectins bind differently to the bowel wall depending on whether or not the tissue is abnormal – thus identifying lesions that could develop into cancer.

Our £30,000 grant enabled the research team to prove that lectins labeled with a special dye make abnormal patches of tissue shine differently under light from a colonoscope.

This revelation has enabled the research team to roll out the technology to a major trial in humans, funded by a £635,187 grant from the Medical Research Council.

Spotting these signs of bowel cancer risk before a tumour has formed would revolutionise colonoscopy, meaning flat polyps or lesions that are currently missed get picked up and treated.

Not only could this be the difference between life and death for many patients, it could also prevent major, invasive treatment down the line by letting doctors clear up problems when they first develop. This means many patients being spared the side-effects of major surgery or chemoradiotherapy. It also protects precious NHS resources at a time of increasingly stretched budgets.

Trevor Yeung, who is leading the project, said “I am very grateful for all that Bowel Research UK has done for this work. Without their crucial seed funding, our project would not have been able to get off the ground! Fluorescence image guided surgery is a new and exciting technology, with the potential to transform patient outcomes in the next few years. Success for this work would cement the UK’s position as one of the leading countries in translational medicine and innovation.”

Peter Rowbottom, Director of Fundraising at Bowel Research UK said “This exciting work is a great example of how small charities can make a huge difference in the field of medical research. Without our grant to prove the effectiveness of Trevor’s original idea, these advances in screening could have been delayed by years or never started at all. We’re immensely proud and excited to see where the project goes now!”

This life-saving work is only possible due to the generosity of our donors.

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