Research / Precision medicine and personalised prevention

Biomarkers for cancer detection

Applying precision oncology to the New Zealand healthcare system for better cancer management

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Project Status: Completed Funding: $2,253,000 Timeframe: Nov 2015 – June 2019

What we investigated


Issue | Take

The current system for monitoring cancer in New Zealand relies on highly specialised imaging techniques, only available at large hospitals.

Aim | Whāinga

The aim of the project was to reduce inequities in access to cancer treatment which exist in the current healthcare system and improve the overall quality of care for all cancer patients by developing less invasive and more sensitive blood tests which could be delivered in community-based health care settings.

Approach | Huarahi i whāia

This project developed and tested minimally invasive biomarkers using circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) to detect colorectal cancer and melanoma. These cancers were selected because their incidence in New Zealand is amongst the highest in the world.

Outcomes and Impact


Outcome | Putanga

This research confirmed the utility of ctDNA for the management of colorectal cancer and melanoma, and demonstrated the feasibility of remote sample collection in New Zealand.

Next Steps | Te ara kei mua

A new study will build on these outcomes to demonstrate the utility of ctDNA technology for the management of other cancers in a variety of clinical settings across New Zealand.

Research Products | Nga hua o te rangahau

  • ctDNA-based tests for colorectal cancer and melanoma
  • bioinformatics pipeline to analyse test data

Knowledge exchange

Whakawhiti Mōhiotanga

Other Publications | Ētahi atu puka

Media | Pāpāho

Video | kōnae whakaata

ctdna for better cancer management

Research Findings Brief

CtDNA is not simply a diagnostic test, but a disruptive technology at the vanguard of precision medicine. It brings with it the potential for broad changes in how cancer is treated day to day, and has numerous potential applications for the care of individual patients.

Project Team

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