Predicting outcomes for patients with bowel cancer could become easier and more precise following the identification of several new biomarkers by researchers in Limerick.

The genes identified by scientists at University of Limerick and the University Hospital Limerick are predictors of the suitability of particular patients to certain kinds of chemotherapy and the likelihood of cancer recurrence.

Chemotherapy is often accompanied by harmful side effects, which often cannot be avoided because diagnostic tools currently available are insufficient and often inaccurate.

Identifying patients with tumours that will spread to lymph glands draining the colon is a key aim for doctors, as it allows them to target such patients with chemotherapy that is most likely to have an impact.

The scientists hope that the new tool will enable clinicians to identify with pinpoint precision the patients who have tumours most at risk of spreading in this way.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer, with 2,435 new cases diagnosed each year.

But the multi-gene test developed in Limerick can be used on all forms of cancer found in solid organs, including cancer of the breast, lungs, pancreas and oesophagus.

The findings were published in the Annals of Surgery international journal.