£2 million awarded to Newcastle scientists rolling out new cancer screening method

A team of scientists in Newcastle have been awarded £2 million by NHS England, to roll out a new method of screening for cancer. Sir John and his colleagues, including Ms Rachel Phelps, a research PhD student in the Cancer Research UK-funded Cancer Prevention Group at Newcastle University, redesigned the Newcastle MSI-Plus Assay.

This has recently become the standard test in North East England to find people with LS among those diagnosed with bowel cancer. MSI, which stands for microsatellite instability, shows that an important DNA repair system isn’t working. Most LS patients are in this group. The test is being evaluated for national rollout.

People with Lynch Syndrome can benefit from screening programmes that enable cancers to be found at an early stage when they can be cured. LS carriers are at high risk of cancers of the bowel and womb, and screening is available for these using colonoscopy for the large bowel and ultrasound for the womb. Unfortunately, the urinary tract has been ignored because there are currently no cheap, non-invasive screening methods that can reliably detect tumours here. Cancer of the upper urinary tract is the third most common cancer associated with LS.

This test can be carried out at low cost and in high numbers. It will help to identify thousands of cancers earlier, when it is easier to treat, giving a much more positive outcome for patients and families.”

If a person with cancer is detected as having Lynch syndrome, a DNA test can then be offered to their relatives to see who else has the condition, so that they can then be put on a regular programme of checks. 

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