Posted on May 08, 2014, 6 a.m.
A noninvasive test that detects the genetic abnormalities related to cancer may greatly improve the effectiveness of colon cancer screening.
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and is projected to cause over 50,000 deaths in 2014. In that the biological processes of the disease readily lend themselves to screening, scientists are developing new tools aimed at early detection. David Ransohoff, from the University of North Carolina (North Carolina, USA), and colleagues assessed two different types of tests used for screening colorectal cancer: a non-invasive, multitarget stool test that includes DNA markers related to colon cancer along with a test that detects stool blood, versus a commercial fecal immunochemical test (FIT). While the FIT test detects hidden blood in the stool, a potential signal for cancer, the multitarget test also includes genetic mutations in the stool that are related to cancer. In the study of nearly 10,000 participants, the DNA test detected 92% of colon cancer, significantly more cancers compared to the 72% for the FIT test in asymptomatic participants at average risk for colorectal cancer. The team observes that: "Detection of 92% of colon cancer is extremely high for a non-invasive test … Having such a sensitive, non-invasive option could have an important effect on screening rates for colorectal cancer."
Thomas F. Imperiale, David F. Ransohoff, Steven H. Itzkowitz, Theodore R. Levin, Philip Lavin, Graham P. Lidgard, David A. Ahlquist, Barry M. Berger. “Multitarget Stool DNA Testing for Colorectal-Cancer Screening.” NEJM, March 19, 2014.