Oxford University join with GE Healthcare to study colorectal cancer

27 September 2005

Chalfont St Giles, UK. GE Healthcare and Oxford University will jointly study the pathology of colorectal cancer, with the aim of achieving earlier diagnosis and treatment of the disease. The two-year collaboration is the first to focus on developing a comprehensive disease management program which will focus on improved staging of the disease using both imaging and genomic pathology, targeted therapy selection and efficacy assessment, and overall-treatment monitoring. A major goal will be to create a coherent picture of a patient's disease and determine the most effective treatment.

The study could act as a model for changing and improving the way a variety of cancers and other diseases are treated. GE Healthcare will contribute expertise in genomic and information technologies. Oxford University will provide clinical data and medical and research expertise.

The project aims to shift the colorectal cancer model from late disease — discovering diseases late when intervention is costly and less effective — to early health — predicting disease based on genetic analysis and selecting treatment customized to the individual. It will study technology to aid in four major stages of disease identification and treatment — prediction, screening, diagnosis and treatment.

"The ultimate goal of the collaboration between GE Healthcare and Oxford University is to redefine the detection, diagnosis and treatment timeline of colorectal cancer," said Dr. Bill Clarke, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology and Medical Officer, GE Healthcare. "Better outcomes are dependent on earlier diagnosis followed by treatment tailored to the individual patient. This is a holistic and patient-focused approach — one we believe can have a meaningful and positive impact on people suffering from this life-threatening disease."

"Medicine today uses empirical data to determine disease; often times, diseases are detected late — in the last 10% of their cycle — when treatment is costly and limited," said John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford. "This means a 90% window of opportunity to see and treat the disease has been missed. By embracing preventative screening methods, patients increase their chances of survival; discovering a disease in its early stages is vital so that intervention is simple and more treatment options are available. Early detection and targeted therapy will result in improved, more effective care for the patient."

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the Western world, where the annual incidence in Western Europe and America is 370,000; however, with regular screenings and early action, colorectal cancer is 90% curable (National Institute of Health).

Once colorectal cancer has been diagnosed, the correct treatment needs to be selected. Currently, 60% of colorectal cancer patients receive chemotherapy to treat their disease; however, this form of treatment only benefits a few percent of the population, while carrying with it high risks of toxicity, thus demonstrating a need to better define the patient selection criteria, also according to the NIH.

Today's reliance on symptom-based observation to describe and flag colorectal cancer would be aided by a better knowledge of the disease and the patient through genetic analysis, according to Clarke.

"Understanding how and where disease begins provides the opportunity of better predicting that disease, selecting treatment that is most compatible with the individual, and starting that treatment at the earliest possible moment as to increase the chances of survival," said Clarke.

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