New Diagnostic Faecal Test Could Identify Colorectal Cancer

Authors of a research letter in this week’s issue of THE LANCET describe a new technique where the detection of a specific protein in faeces could be a marker for colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is a common disease (causing around 500,000 deaths each year worldwide), and screening methods that are more reliable than colonoscopy and faecal-blood assessment are needed for earlier disease detection. Nicholas Coleman and colleagues from the MRC Cancer Cell Unit, Cambridge, UK, aim to develop a non-invasive, stool-based assessment that can identify a specific protein – minichromosome maintenance protein 2 (MCM2) – which is present in cancerous colorectal cells but not normal cells.

In a clinical study, the investigators detected MCM2-positive cells from 37 of 40 patients known to have colorectal cancer; there was no detection of the protein in any of the 25 healthy individuals (the control group).

Nicholas Coleman comments: “These findings suggest that detection of MCM2 in colonocytes retrieved from the faecal surface might be of value in the non-invasive diagnosis of malignant colorectal disease. The conditions of this study do not represent those of a general screening setting, and our findings might have differed in a population with a higher frequency of cancers of the right-side of the colon. Nevertheless, despite the requirement for rapid stool processing, our approach might ultimately prove suitable for population screening, either alone or in combination with other tests.”

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