Two weeks ago, this blog highlighted the issue of doctors not following recommended colon cancer screening guidelines. While the standard tests for colon cancer (primarily colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy) will likely remain in place for now, new information is coming out on a new test that may one day be used to detect colon cancer – a DNA stool test. As reported by MedicalNewsToday.com and others, the test uses a stool sample and detects alterations in DNA that are linked to the presence of tumors. Therefore, actual imaging of the colon is not necessary.
The test has been developed by a Wisconsin company called Exact Sciences. What is key about this new test is that it is non-invasive, meaning that it does not involve any bodily penetration. This would be a boon for those patients who put off getting tested because they don’t want to undergo more invasive procedures, or who don’t want to take time away from their busy lives to do it. This new test can even be done at home.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have already tried out this new test on humans with surprisingly good results. On a test involving 1,100 participants, the DNA test detected 85% of cancers and 65% of pre-cancerous adenomas larger than 1 cm. 87% of Stage I to Stage III cancers were caught by the new test, which is excellent news because the earlier cancer is detected, the better chance there is of a cure.
We must emphasize that this new test is experimental only at this stage. Additional human trials are expected to get underway in 2011. There is no word on when this test may become available for wide-spread use. We will continue to post updates on this exciting new front.