The Inflammatory bowel diseases, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, are conditions in which the bowel becomes inflamed. It is typically diagnosed in children and young adults (although it can affect people of any age) and currently cannot be cured. The frequency in Australia equals the highest in the world. Colorectal cancer occurs more commonly in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, a source of concern for patients and their physicians.
ASSURANCE (Surveillance for Neoplasia in Inflammatory Bowel Disease), a new web-based software program, helps doctors assess a patient’s risk of cancer developing and helps them devise a program to keep a patient under review.
“The key aim of the program is for doctors to manage their inflammatory bowel disease patients effectively”, principal investigators Professor Michael Kamm and Dr Mark Lust said. The information will also be used to improve the way colorectal cancer surveillance is undertaken.
“Some patients with chronic inflammatory bowel disease are at above-average risk for the development of colorectal cancer,” Professor Kamm explained.
“Checking the bowel with regular colonoscopic surveillance has been used to detect early changes within the colon that lead to cancer, so that preventative treatment can be undertaken. However, surveillance programs are imperfect and adherence amongst clinicians remains poor.”
“The ASSURANCE program simplifies risk assessment, offers doctors an easy method to monitor their patients and presents a unique research opportunity to identify risk factors and best management in different global populations.”
Crohn’s & Colitis Australia CEO Francesca Manglaviti welcomed the program, noting that the increased risk of colorectal cancer in patients with IBD was a major source of anxiety for patients and their physicians.
Ms Manglaviti said:
“All patients should receive consistent, high quality care and cancer surveillance. Currently some patients are undergoing multiple colonoscopies while others are missing out on important screening due to inconsistent surveillance practices. This program offers the opportunity to radically improve cancer prevention.”
ASSURANCE incorporates new guidelines for cancer surveillance in IBD from around the world. It is a joint project between St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, the University of Melbourne, and the software company EpiSoft. It has been supported by the charity Australasian Gastro Intestinal Research Foundation (AGIRF) and an unrestricted educational grant from Ferring Pharmaceuticals.
Program coordinator Amy Hamilton said:
“ASSURANCE will be offered to gastroenterologists in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and China. We aim to have the program in widespread use throughout the Asia-Pacific region by the end of 2014.”
“ASSURANCE will be made available to specialists in Australia without charge. Gastroenterologists will be notified about its availability, or they can pre-enrol via an email to [email protected]”