Cancer test designed by Newcastle scientists could improve survival rates

The innovative work of a team of Newcastle scientists is allowing more people to be tested and treated for certain cancers in other major cities across England.

The new test – which has been used for patients in the North East and North Cumbria since January 2022 – provides an improved ability to screen individuals for the inherited condition Lynch syndrome.

Wednesday 22 March is Lynch Syndrome Awareness Day which aims to raise awareness of the condition and those who are affected by it.

Lynch syndrome significantly increases a person’s risk of developing certain types of cancer, in particular colorectal, which is the fourth most common cancer in the UK.

Screening for Lynch syndrome means that if a person tests positive, 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. 

The test can also guide the best treatment to provide, as it can indicate whether a person will respond to immunotherapy, a new and effective approach to cancer treatment with increased accuracy. 

Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is leading the rollout of the project and the test is being evaluated for patients at the Royal Marsden Hospital, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and Bristol NHS Foundation Trust.  

Dr Ciaron McAnulty, clinical scientist at Newcastle Hospitals, said:

“The new test is a game-changer and represents a significant improvement to the screening service. 

“By combining two tests in this novel approach, we are able to screen at scale, quickly and at low cost for individuals at risk of Lynch syndrome.

“In collaboration with colleagues from Newcastle University, we have implemented this new method for inherited cancer screening and 2000 people with colorectal cancer have already been screened for Lynch syndrome, in line with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines.”

Work to roll out and evaluate the innovative test is in collaboration with colleagues from Newcastle Health Innovation Partners including Newcastle University and the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria.

This comes after Newcastle Hospitals was awarded over £1.6 million by NHS England to expand the new method of screening, which could help thousands of people across England to access earlier care.

Vicky McFarlane-Reid, director of business development and enterprise at Newcastle Hospitals, said:

“We are delighted that NHS England has recognised the value and importance of this test and invested to support wider access.

“The project has involved close partnership working between the NHS and research scientists, emphasising the value of sharing expertise and innovation across organisations.

“Bowel cancer is most often treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early, with a good survival rate.

“The Lynch syndrome test can be carried out at low cost and in high numbers. It will help to identify thousands of cancers earlier, when they are easier to treat, providing a much more positive outcome for patients and families.”

The evaluation project is expected to run until late summer 2023.


Leave a Reply