Improved stool DNA test helps spot colon cancer

By David Douglas

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A simplified colorectal cancer screening test that detects tumor DNA in stool is an improvement over an earlier-generation assay, according to North American researchers.

“This new version of the stool DNA test offers rather high sensitivity for colorectal cancer using a much simpler assay,” lead investigator Dr. Steven Itzkowitz told Reuters Health.

“Now that stool DNA testing has been included in the latest colorectal cancer screening recommendations of the American Cancer Society and the leading (gastroenterological) organizations, it offers a viable option for people who prefer to use a non-invasive, stool-based screening test,” added Itzkowitz, from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York.

In the American Journal of Gastroenterology, he and his colleagues report that in a prior evaluation the improved test identified 88% of cancers and had a false positive rate of 18%.

In the current study, the researchers sought to validate these findings in stool samples from an independent set of 42 patients with colorectal cancer and 241 with normal colonoscopies. The team found that the accuracy was similar to the earlier figures.

Moreover, say the investigators, “The vast majority of cancers were detected regardless of tumor stage, tumor location, or patient age.”

In comparison with the older, more complex stool DNA test, they add, the new version is easier to perform, cheaper, and suitable for use in local laboratories.

SOURCE: American Journal of Gastroenterology, November 2008.

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