We asked Susan Moug, Colorectal consultant surgeon to tell us what her nomination for paper of the year. In reply, she talked to colleagues working in colorectal cancer and with the help of Dr David Anderson Surgical Research Fellow, RAH Paisley and University of Strathclyde the following paper(s)! are drawn to our attention. Innovation in early detection is greatly needed … watch for more on these techniques

Nominated Papers:

  1. Jenkins et al. (2018): A high-throughput serum Raman spectroscopy platform and methodology for colorectal cancer diagnostics, Analyst. Citation: Analyst, 2018, 143, 6014 Available at: https://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2018/AN/C8AN01323C#!divAbstract
  1. Gray et al. (2018): Health economic evaluation of a serum-based blood test for brain tumour diagnosis: exploration of two clinical scenarios, BMJ Open. Citation: BMJ Open 2018;8:e017593. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017593 Available at https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/5/e017593

Over the past few years there has been growing interest and excitement surrounding the field of “liquid biopsy” for cancer diagnosis. With the belief that such techniques could provide a minimally invasive diagnostic, prognostic and monitoring tool that would not only be accurate but would make things much easier for patients. Along with detection of circulating DNA, there are other methods of liquid biopsy which hold great clinical promise but which are less well known, leading to my choice of two complimentary papers.

My first paper, from here in the U.K, investigates the use of vibrational spectroscopy in liquid biopsy for colorectal cancer diagnosis, examining 30 patients with colorectal cancer and 30 control participants, with analysis using Raman Spectroscopy. The authors demonstrated the potential for high throughput analysis (10 minutes per patient sample with automated analysis of 40 samples per sample run = they can do a LOT in a short space of time) whilst maintaining reproducibility and validity, and achieving sensitivity and specificity of 83% in this early research work. With advancements to further improve this method could a cost effective liquid biopsy screening programme lead to earlier detection and treatment, and more effective post treatment monitoring for disease recurrence?

One of the main concerns and drawbacks associated with liquid biopsy techniques, especially with circulating DNA detection, is with regard to cost and health economics, bringing my second paper to the fore.  In the paper by Gray, health economic assessment revealed the potential for vibrational spectroscopy to be both more effective, and cost saving, for the health service if used for cancer screening. Could we increase rates of cancer diagnosis, especially in earlier disease stages, whilst actually saving money for the Health Service?


Images: Unsplash