EVANSTON, Ill. --- A Northwestern University biomedical engineer who has developed optical technology shown to be effective for the early detection of colon cancer has received a $7.5 million grant over five years from the National Cancer Institute to further study an instrument that potentially could become a routine colon cancer screening test and to launch large-scale clinical trials.
Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States; more than 50,000 Americans die each year of the disease. Colon cancer, however, can be easily treated if detected early. But no existing population-wide screening test can accurately predict the presence of the disease with adequate sensitivity.
Vadim Backman, principal investigator for the grant and professor of biomedical engineering at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, believes the technology he has developed could lead to the first such test. A major part of the NCI grant is to validate the technology and have it ready for commercialization.
Backman is leading a diverse group of researchers from Northwestern and the four hospitals conducting the clinical trials -- Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, the University of Chicago, Stanford University and Indiana University -- to develop an inexpensive, non-invasive test for routine colon cancer screening.
In the future, it is possible that the simple test would be conducted by a primary care physician during an annual exam. Only patients with abnormal results would go on to have the more invasive and expensive colonoscopy.
The clinical trials will include two studies. The first study of 1,000 patients will be to finalize the technology to be used in the test (making sure it can be used clinically and is practical) and to define the technology's prediction rules; the second will be a double-blind study of 3,000 patients.
The screening test, which does not require bow
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