LONDON, September 8 /PRNewswire/ --

An effective new method of diagnosing bowel (also known as colorectal, or large bowel) cancer using 'light' may soon be available, according to research presented at the British Pharmaceutical Conference (BPC) in Manchester.

The technique, known as 'photodynamic diagnosis', is already used to diagnose and treat other types of cancers, for example, certain skin cancers. A photosensitive drug, which is attracted specifically to cancer cells, is put onto the body. When a blue light is applied to the area, it activates the drug and shows any abnormal cells as red. This makes it easier to identify lesions (abnormal tissue) that could otherwise be missed.

Until now, to reach the cells of the colon and rectum it has been necessary to introduce the drug into the bloodstream through an intravenous needle. This can cause side effects such as nausea and vomiting and changes in blood pressure. .It can also cause the patient's skin to burn more easily in sunlight.

Pharmacy researchers at Queen's University in Belfast are working on a way to deliver the photosensitiser drug directly to the colon, avoiding side effects. The new research found that a photosensitising drug could be successfully released from tablet-shaped substance.

Lead researcher, Dr Ryan Donnelly, Lecturer in Pharmaceutics, said: "Our long-term aim is to develop a coated tablet that can be taken orally prior to the diagnostic test, so there is no need for the patient to have the drug injected. Our work represents the first step towards this goal.

"This has the potential to enhance the success of early diagnosis in bowel cancer, which can be vital for these patients."

Notes to Editors

About Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in women (after breast cancer) and the third most common in men (after prostate and lung cancer).(1) It typically affects people aged over 60 years.(1) Recent estimates suggest that over 36,000 new cases are reported in the UK each year and approximately 1 in 18 men and 1 in 20 women will be affected.(1)

If caught in the earliest stage, a patient will have an 83% chance of surviving the next 5 years, but this falls to only 38 per cent if diagnosed later on. Worryingly, only 11% of patients are diagnosed at a very early stage.(1),(2)

About the British Pharmaceutical Conference 2008 (BPC)

BPC 2008: Pharmacy in the 21st Century: Adding years to life and life to years. In 2008, as the NHS marks its 60th anniversary year, BPC will examine how pharmacy and the pharmaceutical services are helping to add years to life and life to the year of the UK population. The profession of pharmacy plays an important role in meeting the healthcare challenges associated with the UK's ageing population.

How can pharmacists contribute to caring for the population as well as ensuring quality of life? Increasingly, scientists and practitioners have to consider the cost implications of this conundrum, and the evidence base for all interventions is becoming of paramount importance: BPC 2008 will debate these issues and open up discussion on them. Visit:

The main sponsors of BPC 2008 are: Boots The Chemists (Lead Sponsor), AstraZeneca (Associate Sponsor and BPC-PJ Careers Forum Platinum Sponsor), Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) (Associate Sponsor) and GSK (BPC-PJ Careers Forum Platinum Sponsor).

Research released at BPC is published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology (JPP).


1) Cancer Research UK Cancer Statistics. Available at: (accessed 28 July 2008).

2) Campbell, N., et al., Rural and urban differences in stage at diagnosis of colorectal and lung cancers. Br J Cancer 2001; 84(7): 910-914.

LONDON, September 8 /PRNewswire/ --

For media enquiries please contact: The British Pharmaceutical Conference 2008 Press Office (September 7, 8, and 9 only): Tel: +44(0)161-827-8765, Tel: +44(0)161-827-8766, Tel: +44(0)161-827-8767, Tel: +44(0)161-827-8768, Fax: +44(0)161-839-9311, Mobile: Tel: +44(0)7792-109-834, Tel: +44(0)7739-533-658. Or: The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain's Public Relations Unit: +44(0)20-7572-2335.