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Promise and Progress - Beyond Colonoscopy

Leading the Way Fall 2009 Winter 2010

Beyond Colonoscopy

By: Valerie Mehl
Date: December 1, 2009

Cancer Research, June 1, 2009 Clinical Cancer Research, June 15, 2009, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, July 1, 2009


Kimmel Cancer Center researchers were part of an international team to uncover four biomarkers of colon cancer detectable in cells shed into stool.

Abnormal methylation, an alteration that can turn off key tumor suppressor genes, allowing cancers to form, was identified in four genes. These alterations occurred early and frequently in colon cancers and were detected in stool samples of patients with colorectal cancer but were rarely seen in people who did not have cancer. A
stool test to check for the altered genes could be useful in the early detection of colorectal cancer, says Nita Ahuja, M.D., a director of the study. Currently, colonoscopy is the
standard method for detecting colon cancer and is recommended starting at age 50. However, only half of adults have the procedure. Ahuja says, “We’re hoping that if we can’t get patients to get a colonoscopy, then this could be another means of testing for what is a preventable disease.”

Ongoing research is focused on developing an accurate and sensitive stool test for abnormal methylation of these and other genes.

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