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Research into diagnosing and treating bowel cancer

Find out about the latest UK research into diagnosing and treating bowel cancer, clinical trials and how you can take part.

Research into diagnosing bowel cancer

Before new tests to diagnose bowel cancer can be introduced they need to be tested thoroughly. This is so we can be sure they work better than the tests we already use. And so we know they are safe.

Researchers are looking at using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to see if they will be useful in helping to diagnose bowel cancer.

Research into treatment for bowel cancer


Researchers are looking at ways to improve surgery for bowel cancer.


Trials are looking at different chemotherapy drugs, either on their own or with other treatments such as biological therapies.

Researchers are looking at chemotherapy:

  • before and after surgery for bowel cancer
  • for advanced bowel cancer

Researchers are also looking at blood samples to see look at changes in cells before, during and after chemotherapy. This should help them understand more about how chemotherapy works.

Biological therapies

Biological therapies are drugs that change the way cells work. They can boost the body’s immune system to fight off or kill cancer cells, or they can block the signals that tell cells to grow.

Researchers are looking at giving them on their own or with chemotherapy. So far this is mainly for advanced bowel cancer.

Monoclonal antibodies recognise abnormal proteins on cancer cells. They can:

  • change how the cancer cell works
  • take chemotherapy or radiation into the cancer cell to kill it
  • make it easier for the immune system to recognise and kill cancer cells

Types of monoclonal antibodies researchers are looking at for bowel cancer include pembrolizumab and panitumumab.

Last reviewed: 
09 Sep 2016
  • Systemic therapy for colorectal cancer
    JA Meyerhardt and others
    New England Journal of Medicine 2005 V352 (5)

  • Cetuximab, bevacizumab and panitumumab for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer after first-line chemotherapy: Cetuximab (monotherapy or combination chemotherapy), bevacizumab (in combination with non-oxaliplatin chemotherapy) and panitumumab (monotherapy) for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer after first-line chemotherapy
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Guidelines, 2012

  • Cetuximab and chemotherapy as initial treatment for metastatic colorectal cancer
    E Van Cutsem and others
    New England Journal of Medicine 2009 V360 (14)

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