Wiping Colonoscopies Off the Screen

Colorectal cancer may soon be detected with blood test

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D. Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Cancer screenings can be very invasive, painful or both. Wouldn’t it be great if cancer could be detected with a simple blood test? New research suggests this may be very possible in the not-so-distant future.

A new blood test has been shown to be highly accurate in detecting both colorectal cancer and pre-cancerous growths that are likely to turn into cancer.

The test was able to correctly detect up to 82 percent of patients with advanced polyps that are the highest risk to progress into colorectal cancer within several years.

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Colorectal cancer will strike nearly 143,000 Americans this year and cause almost 51,000 deaths. As with all cancers, the key to survival is detecting the disease at its earliest stages.

Ajay Goel, PhD, director of Epigenetics and Cancer Prevention at Baylor Research Institute, was one of the authors of this study. He worked with colleagues both at Baylor and at Mie University in Mie, Japan and Okayama University in Okayama, Japan.

The study analyzed 568 blood and tissue samples gathered between 2005 and 2010 from several hundred healthy volunteers, individuals with colorectal adenomas (polyps) and people with colorectal cancer.

The researchers were working with a microRNA (miR) molecule called miR-21.

Scientists at Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Lab at Baylor Research Institute developed the blood test to measure levels of miR-21.

Researchers found that the test accurately identified 92 percent of patients with colorectal cancer.

“Even more important from a screening perspective, serum [blood] miR-21 levels could reliably differentiate patients with advanced adenomatous polyps from healthy control subjects,” the authors wrote.

“In conclusion, our results provide compelling evidence for the potential usefulness of serum miR-21 as a noninvasive screening and prognostic tool in patients with colorectal neoplasia, a concept that can be incorporated into routine clinical practice in the not-so-distant future pending validation in large-scale prospective trials,” the authors concluded.

“The development of this biomarker is highly encouraging because high mortality rates associated with colorectal cancer is a consequence of late detection of this disease, underscoring the need for improved early detection, prevention, risk assessment and intervention,” Dr. Goel said in a press release.

“This blood-based test could be transformative in how we screen patients for colorectal cancer; it would save lives and could result in major savings of health care dollars,” said Michael Ramsay, MD, president of Baylor Research Institute.

Findings from this research were published in the latest issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

This research was funded by the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, the Baylor Research Institute and the Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center at Baylor University Medical Center.

Review Date: 
June 23, 2013
Last Updated:
August 12, 2013