Gastrointestinal Cancers are a major healthcare challenge around the world. Colon cancer is among the most frequent causes of death and also gastric cancer is a major threat, mainly in some geographic locations of the world, such as Japan.
Cancers of the esophagus are progressing since underlying reflux disease is becoming widespread, linked to overweight, stress and dietary habits.
Thus gastrointestinal (GI) cancers are a very relevant source of personal suffering and also a reason for significant healthcare spending in the healthcare systems of developed countries.
GI cancers will lead to death if they remain untreated or lead to the need of major resective surgery or other aggressive treatments if not treated early enough.
Therefore early detection of GI cancer is paramount in the fight against this group of diseases. If detected at an early stage local treatment means, such as locally circumscribed resection, are feasible. The diagnosis at the stage of precursor disease is even more effective since it does not yet represent malignancy, though it may turn into malignant disease. Among these pre-malignant precursors, called precancerosis, are several types of colon polyps with respect to colon cancer of Barret’s esophagus, a consequence of long-lasting gastroesophageal reflux disease, with respect to esophageal carcinoma.
If the disease is detected at this stage of pre-malignancy, local therapy, such as tissue resection or destruction, can be used to eradicate the disease before malignant transformation and the onset of invasive cancer.
This golden gap between the presence of pre-malignant disease and the beginning of malignant transformation is typical for several types of GI cancers. This is the key for the medical strategy of early detection and therapy.
That enables and necessitates a global approach by companies, nongovernmental organizations and international bodies to challenge GI cancers.
Early detection programs with screening colonoscopy are widely supported by the medical community and also become integrated into the reimbursement scheme in many countries. However only a fraction of patients make use of screening endoscopy since current procedures can be associated with discomfort and pain. Thus the development of novel painless endoscopic devices is needed to increase cancer screening rates. Wireless capsule endoscopy might be an answer to this problem, but current passive capsules cannot replace conventional endoscopy in terms of diagnostic and therapeutic performance. Advanced technology can enhance capsule endoscopy to a level at which it can compete with traditional endoscopy. This development is the main objective of the VECTOR project.