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New fellowship could lead to early cancer detection

Media release

A partnership between Curtin University and The Jodi Lee Foundation will support vital new research into the early detection of bowel cancer.

The Jodi Lee Foundation Research Fellowship will fund a PhD candidate to continue work undertaken by the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute (CHIRI) in early detection of bowel cancer in patients who present at pharmacies with bowel symptoms.

Professor Moyez Jiwa, Chair of Health Innovation in Chronic Disease at CHIRI, has headed the research for the past three years.

“It started with the observation that not a lot of people go to pharmacies with bowel symptoms, and when they do they don’t necessarily get the best advice,” Professor Jiwa said.

“We followed this up with our own review of what kind of advice a pharmacist would give someone with bowel symptoms and we discovered that they would benefit from some sort of objective tool that would allow them to make the best decision.

“So we’ve been working with Rupert Hodder, a colorectal surgeon at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, who had previously produced a tool called a Patient Consultation Questionnaire (PCQ) for use in hospitals and had published his findings in many high impact journals.

“This tool was therefore available for us to trial in community pharmacies.”

Since identifying the PCQ as a potential early detection tool for pharmacists, Professor Jiwa has sought funding to continue his research.

 The Jodi Lee Foundation CEO Nick Lee, husband of the late Jodi Lee, contacted Professor Jiwa on the advice of a former associate.

“The Jodi Lee Foundation has very generously agreed to fund a PhD stipend for us to take the work forward from here,” he said.

“This means we’ll move to full randomised control trials to formally investigate the value of the PCQ used in this setting.

“In practical terms, this means when a patient presents at the pharmacy, they complete the PCQ and the researcher will assess the score for that individual.

“Liaison between the patient and pharmacy occurs to advise them whether they need to visit their GP or not, and they’ll follow up with the patients on their outcomes.”

Successful implementation of the PCQ could see it become a regular early detection tool in pharmacies, with the potential to direct more patients to early treatment.

“An objective of The Jodi Lee Foundation is to encourage annual screening for bowel cancer using kits readily available in pharmacies,” Mr Lee said.

“By creating this partnership with Curtin University, we are potentially taking this one step further by providing additional tools that a pharmacist can use to make an assessment and recommendation.”

Identifying a suitable candidate meant finding someone with a background in bowel cancer research, who was familiar with the methodology, confident in conducting controlled trials, experienced in publishing and skilled with statistics – no small order.

“We also wanted someone who was committed to the vision we have, which is trying to improve the outcome for patients not only with colorectal cancer, but other patients with bowel disease who present in this setting,” Professor Jiwa said.

The PhD candidate will be presented with the fellowship by Mr Lee at the ‘Colorectal Cancer: Innovations in primary care‘ event on Tuesday 13 December 2011 at Curtin University. 

About The Jodi Lee Foundation:

The Jodi Lee Foundation was established in 2010 after Nick Lee lost his wife Jodi to bowel cancer at age 41.

The Foundation hopes to significantly reduce the prevalence of bowel cancer death among Australians by encouraging people to screen annually from age 40.

Money raised by The Jodi Lee Foundation will be used to develop an online questionnaire to help people self-asses their risk of developing bowel cancer; promote awareness of the existence of bowel cancer; select and fund bowel cancer research projects and develop programs to help families affected by bowel cancer.

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Kristy Jones, Public Relations, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 9085, Mobile: 0402 517 300, Email: