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Special report: Colorectal cancer is traditionally seen as an issue in western countries, but it is a growing problem in the Asia Pacific and developing countries as well.

“The five-year prevalence population for colorectal cancer in the Asia-Pacific was 1.7 million in 2017,” according to a study by Research and Markets.

Prevalence is the number of people alive with the disease during that time period.

This figure has been gradually rising because of growing elderly populations and increasingly Westernised lifestyles.

South Korea and China have steadily rising rates of colorectal cancer. While the latter still has lower rates of incidence than in the West, people with the disease were much more likely to die from it.

In India incidences are still low, while Japan, after a rapid rise in incidence after World War 2, has managed to begin reducing disease rates in recent years, partly through introducing screening processes.

The Research and Markets study says growing awareness of the disease, which predominantly affects people over 50 years, as well as available diagnostic services will increase early diagnosis.

Colorectal cancer has a 90 per cent survival rate — if it’s caught early.

The most affordable and widely promulgated population screening test for colorectal cancer in Western countries is a stool test but in culturally conservative countries these tests may not attract the uptake levels needed to stem the rising toll of this disease.

The stool test — a take-at-home faecal immune test that looks for blood in the faeces — is used around the world but can be off-putting.

A solution for a sticky problem?

An Australian company called Rhythm Biosciences is positioning itself to fill that void, where the ‘gross factor’ meets cultural reserve.

Melbourne-based Rhythm (ASX:RHY) is developing a blood test designed to be effective, affordable and, importantly, also able to be used in real-life settings — an important detail when you’re making a diagnostic test for truly global use.

Its technology, ColoSTAT, uses antibodies to measure the levels of several proteins in the blood.

The concentrations of these target proteins have been shown to vary in the presence or absence of colorectal cancer.

Importantly, published results indicate that ColoSTAT is able to detect Stage 1 cancer.  When detected at Stage 1, the likelihood of treatment success is much higher than when detected at later stages.

Rhythm is well positioned to meet the needs of the growing populations at risk of developing colorectal cancer. And its ColoStat test could prove particularly useful in the Asia Pacific region.

Current tests require stool samples to be sent to a lab at ambient temperature. But in warmer, more humid climates, the stability of the sample can be compromised as the test makes its way from the home to the lab.

This is a double whammy in countries where temperatures are high and mail systems may be unreliable.

The ColoStat test is taken in a clinic by a nurse or doctor, which removes the potential for climate to damage the final result.

Observing these trends early, Rhythm has strategically sought patent protection for ColoSTAT in key Asian markets with patents already granted in Japan and China, in addition to the more traditional and established Western markets.

Rhythm also has patent applications pending in India and Brazil.

“At Rhythm we believe that establishing a simple, accurate, inexpensive antibody-based test for colorectal cancer that can be run using existing immunoassay infrastructure that is widely available already will allow a rapid and broad deployment of the test, whether in Western societies, Asia Pacific or the developing world,” said Rhythm’s MD, Dr Trevor Lockett.

 

This special report is brought to you by Rhythm Biosciences.

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