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Testing for colorectal cancer  

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The Bupa Health Foundation is supporting exciting research by the CSIRO aimed at improving early detection and screening of colorectal cancer (CRC), Australia’s second most common internal cancer3.

CSIRO’s Dr Leah Cosgrove is leading a team of scientists that have developed the world’s first blood-based diagnostic test for CRC as an alternative to the current stool-based tests.

“For many Australians, particularly those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, undertaking a test that involves handling faecal matter is unacceptable,” explains Dr Cosgrove.

The Bupa Health Foundation-supported trial is evaluating the test’s suitability for individuals who are symptomatic or suspected of having CRC, and people with a personal or family history of the disease.

“As cancers and precancerous growths only bleed intermittently and some not at all, it is possible that a stool test could miss CRC. We hope to see that our blood-based test will be a more acceptable and accurate test for CRC, that it will enhance screening participation rates and, ultimately, that it will save lives, says Dr Cosgrove.

“Only 30% of Australians with risk factors for CRC participate in screening.” 4

3 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Australasian Association of Cancer Registries 2012. Cancer in Australia: an overview, 2012. Cancer series no. 74. Cat. No. CAN 70. Canberra: AIHW.

4 Ait Ouakrim D, Lockett T, Boussioutas A, et al. Screening Practices of Australian Men and Women at or Slightly Above Average Risk of Colorectal Cancer. Cancer Causes and Control. 2012 23(11): 1853-64.

Preventing diabetes in at-risk populations 

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New research supported by the Bupa Health Foundation has found the use of Metformin, a drug commonly used for diabetes, can also be used as an intervention to prevent the progression from insulin resistance to type 2 diabetes in obese, middle-aged women.

Conducted by Professor Susan Davis and her team at Monash University, the study assessed the effects of Metformin on women who have put on weight around their abdominal region but still had normal blood sugar levels. They looked at the drug’s effect on insulin sensitivity, weight loss, cholesterol and other measures related to the potential risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

A total of 120 obese women (mean age 53 years with a body mass index between 30 and 40) participated in the double blind placebo trial, which found that the women who took 850mg of Metformin twice daily for 26 weeks had both improved insulin resistance and weight loss compared to the placebo.

“These promising findings could have a significant impact on the treatment of people at risk of diabetes and, ultimately, reduce the number of new cases of this deadly disease,” explains Professor Davis.

“Unlike other drugs used to treat diabetes, Metformin does not cause low blood sugar making it very safe to use. It is now being looked at as a potential prevention and treatment for various forms of cancer, including breast cancer and uterine cancer.”

View interview with Professor Susan Davis