TCD Researchers Take Part in National Assessment of Colorectal Screening Strategies

Posted on: 25 June 2009

Trinity researchers participated in the Health Technology Assessment into the cost effectiveness analysis of screening methods for colorectal cancer the results of which were published by the Health Information and Quality Authority this month.

The team, led by the National Cancer Registry, included Dr Lesley Tilson and Dr Cara Usher of the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at Trinity’s School of Medicine and Dr Cathal Walsh from the School of Computer Science and Statistics, all of whom are members of the National Centre of Pharmacoeconomics.

Health Technology Assessment (HTA) is a form of health research which combines the available evidence about the efficacy of an intervention with an evaluation of the economic impact of the intervention.

Dr Michael Barry, Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology and Therapeutics at TCD and Clinical Director of the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics said: “Increasingly, decisions about health care interventions require careful assessment of both the efficacy and the cost relative to other treatment options available. The methods used in these evaluations are developing rapidly, and working with an international, interdisciplinary team ensures that we can provide the best possible assessments to inform these decisions.”

Colorectal cancer is the second most frequently diagnosed cancer in both men and women in Ireland. On average, 2040 new cases are diagnosed each year with Ireland having the highest mortality rates for colorectal cancer for men in Western Europe. The purpose of the Health Technology Assessment was to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of various options for a population-based colorectal cancer screening programme in Ireland and also to estimate the resource requirements and health outcomes that would result in the first decade following the implementation of such a programme.

Dr Patricia Harrington, Acting Director of Health Technology Assessment with the Health Information and Quality Authority said: “The results of the HTA clearly show that lives can be saved through the introduction of this screening programme and the associated higher detection rate of colorectal cancer at an early stage. The recommended programme would be highly cost-effective, when compared with a policy of no screening. Specifically, a programme based on faecal immunochemical testing (FIT) every two years for people aged 55 to 74 years was found to be the optimal strategy and it would provide the greatest health gain, while remaining highly cost-effective.”

Professor Colm Ó ‘ Móráin, Dean of Health Sciences at Trinity College Dublin and Consultant Gastroenterologist, Adelaide & Meath Hospital, incorporating the National Childrens’ Hospital, Dublin, was a member of the multidisciplinary Expert Advisory Group (EAG) put in place to lead and oversee the process and advise the Health Information and Quality Authority while carrying out the Health Technology Assessment.

The Health Information and Quality Authority’s advice to the Minister for Health and Children and the National Cancer Screening Service Board in recommending a screening programme based on FIT every two years would result in a 14.7% reduction in the incidence and 36% reduction in mortality from colorectal cancer.

Other evaluations undertaken by the Trinity research team include the Health Technology Assessment of the HPV vaccination for cervical cancer and the pneumococcal vaccine. The National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics is also responsible for evaluating the cost effectiveness of pharmacological interventions as requested by the Health Service Executive (HSE).