Researchers investigated whether there are differences in the genes within adenomas which lead to cancer and those which do not to determine a way of predicting the risk of developing bowel cancer.

They did this by measuring how quickly the cells in a polyp were evolving. This built on previous work which demonstrated that the speed of evolution corresponds strongly with cancer risk.


The project was led by Dr Trevor Graham, using the facilities of his Evolution and Cancer laboratory at Barts Cancer Institute and studied polyps from patients treated at the Oxford Translational Gastroenterology Unit and University College London Hospitals

Why predict the risk of developing bowel cancer?

More than 41,000 individuals are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year. The cancer develops from polyps which form in the bowel. Individuals who have had polyps identified and removed are considered to be at greater risk of cancer. However, not all of these would develop into cancer. There is therefore a real need to be able to pinpoint which will become cancerous in order to save people unnecessary and aggressive surveillance and the obvious stress that will go hand in hand with this.

What was the impact of this research?

The project completed in May 2015 and the team successfully developed an objective molecular test which they intend to further validate in larger studies. They have secured £1.5M funding from CRUK and Barts & the London Charity to take the studies to the next stage.

Though the next stages of work will take years to validate, largely because of the time that the necessary patient follow up will take, this is a critical first step and is highly significant.

Bowel & Cancer Research funding has been absolutely integral to the success of this work. Specifically the funding has allowed us to perform the expensive genomic assays we would otherwise not have been able to run. The data produced by these assays have allowed us to make the first and critical steps in our development of a biomarker for colorectal cancer risk. Moreover, these B&CR data became integral parts of two major grants that will further expand this area of work. Dr Trevor Graham