Breakthrough for Non-invasive Bowel Cancer Screenings

ARH has funded a project that has proven ways to extract several types of cells from stool in hopes that it will uncover a more effective, non-invasive way to screen for bowel cancer.

Bowel, colorectal or colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in Australia. In 2021, an estimated 15,500 cases of bowel cancer were diagnosed, making up 10% of all cancer diagnoses in Australia.

Currently, bowel cancer screenings involve an initial examination of stool, or a faecal occult blood test (FOBT), followed by a colonoscopy to investigate and diagnose. FOBT is the most popular method in detecting the early signs of bowel cancer by examining microscopic traces of blood in stool. However, the test only correctly identifies 58% of individuals with bowel cancer and a colonoscopy is required to determine a bowel cancer diagnosis. Even though the process has proven in reducing bowel cancer mortality by 18%, it is costly and invasive to Australians.

In 2021, PhD candidate, Liam Ryan, from Deakin University was awarded a ‘Reg Kilborn’ Funding Partner PhD Scholarship co-funded by the Rotary Club of Mornington and ARH, to conduct research into cell-based (cytological) bowel cancer screening methods. His research aims to help design a more effective, cheaper, non-invasive alternative to the current method we use to screen for bowel cancer.

Mr Ryan’s early research has been able to isolate gastrointestinal cells from frozen stool samples using specialised laboratory methods. This data proves that methods for cell-based screening could be optimised and improved upon to design an alternative way we diagnose bowel cancer. His 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 patients.

“The production of impactful, compassionate, clinical research has always been a major personal and professional motivation,” said Mr Ryan.

“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 the greatest chance of producing impactful clinical outcomes for my community.”

Mr Ryan’s research scholarship will continue into 2023.


Media contact: Alexander Galati –

First published 15th June 2022

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