Christina Dobson | 1 April 2022 | 3 min read
Prestigious funding award for new study, COLOFIT

We are thrilled to announce that we have received a prestigious funding award, from the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), to examine the use of 'FIT' testing for people who go to their GP with possible symptoms of bowel cancer.

COLOFIT is an exciting collaboration, jointly led by Prof. Colin Rees (Professor of Gastroenterology, Newcastle University) and Prof. Willie Hamilton (Professor of Primary Care Diagnostics, University of Exeter), and developed building upon extensive work with patients and health care professionals. COLO-FIT examines how GPs should use a new test (Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT)) to identify which patients with bowel symptoms, are at higher risk of bowel cancer and need to be examined in hospital. This project was developed with extensive input from patients, alongside a strong group of collaborators from across the UK, including several members of the COLO-SPEED team (Professor Linda Sharp, Professor Colin Rees, Dr Christina Dobson)

Every year many people experience bowel symptoms (such as changes in bowel habit and bleeding from the back passage) and are referred to hospital, by their GP, for investigations to identify the cause of the symptoms and rule out bowel cancer. Most people who go for these investigations will not have bowel cancer.

Developing new tools and pathways to ensure that those most at risk of bowel cancer are seen quickly, whilst preventing an overwhelm of NHS services and putting low-risk patients through unnecessary investigations, is vital. One way to do this is to use a FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Testing) test for patients who go to their GP with bowel symptoms, to guide the GP's decision about whether, or not, that patient needs an investigation. The FIT test looks for traces of blood in the stool (poo), using the same type of ‘poo card test’ that is used in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme.

COLOFIT will calculate 'risk scores' for patients with colorectal cancer symptoms, to identify which patients should be prioritised for referral to hospital for investigation of their symptoms, as they are at greater risk of having bowel cancer. During the study we will also talk to patients and health professionals to understand their experiences of using 'FIT' testing in real life, and calculate the costs of this new approach to testing and referral.

This research will allow those at highest risk of bowel cancer to be investigated promptly, reduce the need for unpleasant investigations for patients who don’t need them, and reduce burden on NHS services. We are excited to begin working on this new research and are thankful to the National Institute of Health Research for awarding us this funding through their Health Technology Assessment Commissioned Call on Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) based tools to triage in primary care.

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