Spotting Colon Cancer

Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, kills roughly 655,000 people each year across the globe and is the third leading cause of death by cancer and third leading cancer that affects patients. It is estimated that colon cancer will affect 1 in 17 people in their lifetime. It is thought that the majority of colon cancer tumors develop from adenomatous polyps that are in the colon. Colon cancer can be prevented, especially in high risk patients, if benign tumors in the colon, rectum, or appendix are discovered early because the benign tumors can turn cancerous over a period of time if left untreated. Ways to discover these tumors include regular screening, colonoscopies, virtual colonoscopies, a fecal occult blood test and many more methods. A new method for spotting colon cancer in the near future can be the use of blood tests.

Two recent studies have indicated that using blood tests to detect colon cancer can become a non invasive method of detecting colon cancer in patients in the near future. “We have found biomarkers that can be used to screen for colorectal cancer,” said Dr. Joost Louwagie, of OncoMethylome Sciences in Liege, Belgium, and lead researcher of one study. “These markers are found in blood, so a regular blood test performed during a regular physical check-up could check for the presence of colorectal cancer.” The study was performed in Berlin, Germany.

The study conducted included taking blood samples from 193 people suffering from colon cancer and blood samples from 688 people without colon cancer who were having colonoscopies performed. The researchers looked at genes associated with colon cancer that appear in the blood and found two common ones; SYNE1 and FOXE1. These two genes were present in people who suffer from colon cancer but were very infrequent in people without the disease. Louwagie does not think that this new test will replace a colonoscopy or a fecal occult blood test but it will be another viable option for patients to choose from that is less intrusive than the other options available.

“If such a screening test could reduce deaths from colon cancer it is very significant,” Dr. Floriano Marchetti said. “A noninvasive, inexpensive blood test could get more people to be screened.” Marchetti is an assistant professor of surgery and director of the Colon and Rectal Surgery Residency Program at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Louwagie knows and understands that more trials with larger sample sizes are needed to prove the validity of the blood test and hopes to have a new trial underway by the end of the 2009 calendar year. The new trial will encompass at least 7,000 people. If these trials prove that this test can work effectively then this option will become highly popular among people across the globe because normal blood tests are done with regular physical examinations during doctor visits. Blood tests will also be less invasive and will cost less from the wallet of the patient, which makes this test very attractive.