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Early detection test for bowel cancer - study

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A researcher aiming to develop an early-detection genetic-based test for bowel cancer is one of several University of Otago researchers who have been awarded almost $1.5 million in Health Research Council funding.

The council has announced today that six University of Otago researchers have secured $1,497,138 million for Emerging Research First Grants, a fund dedicated to people who are beginning their research career.

A maximum of $250,000 is available over a three-year period for health researchers with a clear development pathway who are working in a strongly supportive research environment.

Dr Kirsty Danielson, from the University of Otago, Wellington, will receive $249,984 to investigate developing biomarkers for early diagnosis of bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer or rectal cancer.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world, resulting in about 1200 deaths annually. Two key ways bowel cancer related deaths can be reduced are by earlier diagnosis of the disease and through optimising treatment plans for patients.

Dr Danielson explains that tumour cells release small ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules that circulate in the blood plasma which have recently been identified as novel biomarkers for bowel cancer.

This study will use cutting-edge RNA sequencing technology to discover potential RNA biomarkers for early diagnosis of bowel cancer and for prediction of response to radiation therapy before surgical removal of the tumour. RNA markers identified will also be investigated in tumour cells to determine how they affect the behaviour of cancerous cells and the response to radiation treatment.

University of Otago Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) Professor Richard Blaikie is delighted to see support for the country’s future research leaders.

“I am glad that this diverse range of impactful research has been funded to address important issues in human health and wellbeing,” Professor Blaikie says.

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