Bowel Cancer Research
‘Stool Cytology – A new Frontier for non-invasive screening’
Deakin University, VIC
Awarded 2021 – 2022
Co-funded by The Rotary Club of Mornington ‘Reg Kilborn’ Funding Partner PhD Scholarship
“The fact that bowel cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer mortality in Australia drove me to frame my research in the context of bowel cancer screening because here my work has greatest chance of producing an impactful clinical outcomes for my community.”
I am a PhD candidate with Deakin University’s School of Medicine. I completed my VCE at St Joseph’s College, Geelong. My passion for medicine and education comes from my mother, who is an emergency and critical care nurse and my father who is a teacher. I completed a Bachelor of Biomedical science and an Honours in Health and Medical science at Deakin University. I undertook this pathway in the hope of contributing to my field and the health of the greater public by producing impactful, innovative, clinical research. I work to enrich the experiences of the next generation of budding scientists through my position as a marking tutor and laboratory demonstrator with Deakin University’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences.
I hope to further the vision of Australian Rotary Health and the Rotary Club of Mornington by improving the health and well-being of Australians through my project “Stool cytology – a new frontier for non-invasive screening”. I am sincerely grateful for the support of Australian Rotary Health, the Rotary Club of Mornington and Deakin University’s School of Medicine, I look forward to producing meaningful clinical outcomes alongside these groups going forward.
The current national bowel screening tool detects blood in stool, which originates from some advanced bowel cancers. However, the cost of this test reduces the frequency of its application. The design of the current national screening tool is also limited and lacks accuracy, correctly identifying only 58% of individuals with bowel cancer. Although there are some flaws in its design, the current screening test for bowel cancer has had a far-reaching impact on early detection and treatment, reducing mortality by 18%.
My project aims to develop a new alternative method to bowel screening using cell-based methods, similar to those used in cervical screening. Cell-based methods such as cytology are cheap and accurate, emerging evidence has also demonstrated the presence of cells from the lining of the bowel in fresh stool samples. During my Honours project I obtained my own preliminary data that shows that gastrointestinal cells can be isolated from long-term frozen stool samples using specialised laboratory methods. This data showed that methods for cell-based screening in stool samples can be optimised and improved upon to produce a clinical screening tool. My project also aims to optimise the isolation, collection and preservation of human cells in stools and to establish biomarkers for pre-cancerous polyps and malignant tumours in these populations.
Supervisors: Professor Jeffrey Craig, Dr Yen Wong and Professor Karen Dwyer