Working to Reduce Bowel Cancer in People With Diabetes

Posted on 17.12.2020

Tinne Laurberg will investigate whether more targeted screening can reduce diabetes patients’ risk of bowel cancer.

Diabetes patients have a 25% greater risk of developing bowel cancer than people without diabetes. Moreover, their post-treatment mortality is higher. Why this is so is not currently known, so it is also difficult for doctors to initiate targeted measures to eliminate the difference.

However, asks Tinne Laurberg MD PhD of the Steno Diabetes Center Aarhus, ‘Can’t we find new ways of ensuring that more people with diabetes are screened for bowel cancer?’.

The idea has found favour with the Danish Diabetes Academy, which has now provided funding for Tinne Laurberg to start working on it in her postdoc study. This will be conducted at the Steno Diabetes Center Aarhus over four years, so that Tinne Laurberg can continue working part-time as a hospital doctor.

Professor Annelli Sandbæk of Steno Aarhus will be her primary supervisor, but she will also be working closely with Professor Berit Andersen of Randers Regional Hospital, the director of the bowel cancer screening programme in Central Denmark Region, who will be a key player in the development of measures to get more people with diabetes to come for screening.

Do people with diabetes take part as much as others?
Tinne Laurberg will begin her research by investigating whether patients with diabetes take part in the Danish bowel screening programme to the same extent as patients without diabetes, whether the proportion of positive stool tests is higher, and whether more bowel cancer precursors and bowel cancer cases are found among this group than among participants without diabetes.

The data collected will be used to develop measures that may lead to a higher proportion of people with diabetes being screened for bowel cancer.

‘This will reduce the risk of patients with diabetes developing bowel cancer and will improve survival after the disease’, says Tinne Laurberg.

Perhaps they should be invited differently
One of the measures she is already envisaging is that of inviting this patient group in a different way than by letter as happens today. Other possibilities are reducing their age limit for screening, screening them more often and/or changing the threshold value for a positive stool test.

‘Furthermore, the registry studies will be able to provide insight as to whether bowel cancer patients with diabetes could benefit from more specific treatment and/or follow-up guidelines being drawn up especially for them’, says Tinne Laurberg.

Denmark’s big data registries will provide a lot of data, but Tinne Laurberg will also work at the Universities of Gothenburg and Manchester during her postdoc period. In Gothenburg, among other things, she will work with bowel cancer data linked to the Swedish national diabetes registry, which has been collecting data on all adult diabetes patients’ smoking habits, BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol etc. since 1996.

In Manchester, she will be particularly concerned with the University’s data on the significance of obesity for survival after treatment for bowel cancer.

Name and title: Tinne Laurberg MD, PhD, b. 1976

Awarded DKK 1.2 million by the Danish Diabetes Academy.

Project title: Impact of Diabetes on Colorectal Cancer

Research centre: Steno Diabetes Center Aarhus / Aarhus University

Principal supervisor: Professor Annelli Sandbæk


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