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HTC helps develop ‘hands-free’ bowel cancer screening

The HTC is working with the NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure and US company E&B Devices to develop a ‘hands free’ bowel cancer screening tool. The technology could help to increase the numbers of people who avoid taking part in the screening programme, potentially saving some of the 16,000 lives lost to the disease every year.

Since 2008, the national bowel cancer screening programme is open to men and women aged 60 – 74, but many are reluctant to provide samples of their faeces, resulting in an uptake of just 55 – 60%.

The prototype developed by E&B Devices works by detecting blood in the stool while it’s still in the toilet bowl, meaning there’s no need to handle a sample.  By overcoming the main barrier to patient participation, this could help to catch more potential cancers or other bowel problems early.

The HTC undertook a preliminary study to determine the sensitivity and specificity of the technology. Working together, the HTC and E&B Devices brought in product design specialists Pd-m International to help optimize the device’s design.

The HTC is also helping to explore the potential for the device in the NHS, conducting a detailed health economic analysis to determine the clinical benefit to the health service and its financial contribution.

The technology was one of those showcased at the HTC’s first Citizen’s Panel to gain feedback from the public on the usability of the test.

Dr Neville Young, HTC Manager, said: “E&B Devices were at an early stage of development with the technology which clearly had the potential to have a big impact on screening of individuals for colon cancer. We were able to provide the full range of expertise and experience of the HTC to help them to the next stage with their technology.”