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Research into diagnosing and treating bowel cancer

Before new tests and treatments can be introduced they need to be tested thoroughly. This is so we can be sure that they work and that they are safe. 

Research into diagnosing bowel cancer

Researchers are looking at a test on your poo called faecal immunochemical testing (FIT). They want to find out if this test can help them decide who needs to have an urgent endoscopy to look for bowel cancer.

Researchers are also looking at how they use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to diagnose and plan treatment for bowel cancer.

Research into treatment for bowel cancer


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

Doctors are looking at ways to check for cancer in the lymph nodes close to rectal cancer. This will help them decide which type of operation you should have. 

Research is looking at treatment for people with cancer very low in their back passage (rectum). Doctors are not sure if radiotherapy is necessary for everyone before surgery. Some people might do just as well having only surgery. But doctors need to know this for sure.


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 comparing chemotherapy drugs to find out whether some drugs cause fewer side effects than others.  

Targeted cancer drugs and immunotherapy

Targeted cancer drugs change the way cells work. They can block the signals that tell cells to grow. Immunotherapies can boost the body’s immune system to fight off or kill cancer cells.

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

There are many types of targeted drugs and immunotherapies. For bowel cancer, researchers are looking at:

  • drugs that block cancer blood vessel growth (anti angiogenesis treatment), such as aflibercept
  • monoclonal antibodies, such as panitumumab
  • immunotherapies, such as pembrolizumab
Last reviewed: 
16 Nov 2018
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