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    Research home > Beat Cancer Project > Gastrointestinal cancers: A breath test to detect deadly gastrointestinal cancers early

    Gastrointestinal cancers: A breath test to detect deadly gastrointestinal cancers early

    Professor Ross Butler

    Novel non-invasive detection of early oesophageal and gastric dysplasia and neoplasia

    Our research

    Oesophageal and stomach cancer are two cancers that have a low five year survival once detected. In the case of oesophageal cancers they are increasing in Australia and globally at around 10% every year, and at the present time only 15-20% of patients survive after 2-5 years. In many cases, oesophageal and stomach cancers are detected quite late and this is a primary reason for their high mortality. In many cases they are essentially asymptomatic in the earlier stages. We are developing breath tests as a way to identify these early stages of the disease.

    The breath test would serve the role of a screening tool such that if a positive test result is returned the patient could be investigated further with more complex tests. If the patient’s cancer is identified in the early stages through the use of the breath test, treatment could be initiated before the tumours spread which, in turn, could lead to a higher likelihood of treatment success.

    What we aim to achieve

    We expect that a breath test at the general practitioner level would potentially identify patients who are candidates for upper gut cancers and that this would potentially improve the management of many cancer patients. Developing efficient tools that allow early identification of oesophageal and stomach cancers needs to be addressed, especially in light of the rapidly increasing prevalence of these cancers. 

    Our next steps and milestones

    The findings from the current project will underpin the next steps to moving into clinical trials. Ultimately our work is leading to an improved management and treatment strategy for upper gut cancer sufferers.

    What motivates me

    My motivation comes from the desire to improve cancer detection and management.

    My message to supporters

    Early diagnosis is an important weapon in the fight to beat cancer. The detection, using a non-invasive breath test, of people at risk and already harbouring early oesophageal cancer will allow treatment regimens already in existence to be used with success in preventing the upper gut cancers from spreading. The support of Cancer Council SA’s donors is pivotal in providing us with the funding to continue this work.

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