NHS England is expecting that a new home-testing kit for bowel cancer will cut the number of ‘invasive’ colonoscopy investigations by half.
According to NHS England, the ‘FIT’ test can predict bowel cancer by precisely recording the presence of any blood in just one gram of faeces.
Over the next year, NHS England is funding a £550,000 research project covering 6,000 patients across nine trusts in West London.
It will see researchers examining how levels of blood may vary by age, sex and ethnicity, in a bid to ensure the test gives accurate results regardless of who is using it.
If deemed successful, this could save NHS millions every year, as the self-testing kit costs just £5 compared with £372 for each colonoscopy.
The research, which will be led by Croydon Health Service NHS Trust, will be England’s largest-ever study into the accuracy of FIT and follows a call for evidence from NICE.
It follows on from a previous, smaller study by the same team which concluded that the FIT test could reduce investigations by at least 40%.
GPs referred 302,643 patients for urgent investigation in over the past year, a rise of 15% annually, but 95% were found not to have bowel cancer.
NHS England’s national cancer director Cally Palmer said: ‘We are pleased to support this fantastic study that seeks to revolutionise diagnosis for patients with colorectal symptoms.
‘This study, and others like it, is a key component of our transformation plans to improve survival by diagnosing cancer earlier and faster. We will be studying the results closely to see how we can best roll this test out nationally.’
It comes as new research, published last week, found that an algorithm used to detect bowel cancer risk based on blood test results could improve the accuracy of colorectal cancer screening.