K9 Medical Detection New Zealand Charitable Trust
Charitable Trust Registration
No: CC55179

Bowel Cancer Clinical Trial

AIM: To develop a highly accurate urine test using canines for the non-invasive detection of early stage bowel cancer therefore offering an alternative to current faecal testing in New Zealand.

BACKGROUND: Bowel cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer here in New Zealand with approximately 3200 people diagnosed each year and 1200 dying from this disease. Up to 90% of people can be saved if the cancer is detected early enough.


Currently there is a government funded National Bowel Screening Programme available for 60-74 year olds but Is only available in 8 out 20 District Health Boards (DHB’s). There are current delays due to capacity issues and DHB’s readiness to cope.

This Bowel Screening Programme is expected to be rolled out progressively throughout New Zealand across all 20 DHB’s before 2021.
Once fully implemented, the National Bowel Screening Programme is expected to detect between 500-700 bowel cancers a year. This age group only accounts for approximately 36% of all bowel cancers registered in New Zealand annually. (Ministry of Health).

Participants are sent a home bowel screening kit which is used in the privacy of their own home.
A faecal sample is required to be collected by the participant and sent within a certain time frame in a prepaid envelope for testing. If the sample is heat damaged or received outside of the specified time frame, the sample is destroyed, and participants are required to do the test again.

This test is used to detect blood in patient’s faecal sample which would indicate bleeding polyps which can turn in to bowel cancer. Unfortunately, these tests can also pick up bleeding in the bowel which can indicate internal issues such as inflammatory bowel conditions (Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis or Coeliac Disease), haemorrhoids or patients may have even eaten something that has scratched them internally on the way down.

New Zealand has the third worst rate of inflammatory bowel disease in the world and it is growing at an alarming rate. A new study has found that as many as 70,000 Kiwis are currently living with the disease, and symptoms can mirror a number of bowel cancer ones which can include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, rectal bleeding and weight loss.

The NZ National screening unit expects 7% of all home screening kits sent out to those between the ages of 60-74 to return a positive result for blood.
IBD conditions including Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis is often picked up through these current bowel screening kits.

Any sample that detects blood requires the patient to have a follow up colonoscopy where a camera is used to detect any polyps or cancers within the bowel. This can be very costly and invasive.

If we can remove those patients with Inflammatory bowel issues and concentrate on finding those with bowel cancer only we could reduce the current strain on the workforce capacity in NZ.


The governments national bowel screening programme has been in operation since its rollout in 2017. The National screening unit expects a low 62% participation rate overall.

Figures obtained by Bowel Cancer Foundation Trust from the Ministry of Health’s National Screening Unit, Screening Insights and Analytics Department shows lower than expected participation rates in some DHB’s of only 52% (Counties Manukau DHB - 31st July 2019).

It has been reported that only 50% of Maori and Pasifika communities participate overall and are the group most likely to be diagnosed with bowel cancer before the age of 60.


K9 Medical Detection NZ has strict protocols and robust methodologies for all medical detection trials. Research trials are led by Professor Sarah Young, Doctor Katrin Campbell and Doctor Sharon Pattison in conjunction with K9MD Director Pauline Blomfield and The Bowel Cancer Foundation Trust. K9 Medical Detection have clinical facilities in Dunedin including a laboratory for the safe handling and storing of all medical samples.

In January 2020 German shepherd Levi commenced training to detect bowel cancer and is showing excellent results. This is a three year trial. Stage one and two each consist of 15 validation stages. A second dog will be added to the trial late 2020.

It is hoped that the findings from this research programme will assist in the development of a new bowel cancer programme for New Zealand.

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