On Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first blood-based screening test for colorectal cancer.
The Epi proColon test uses a blood sample to screen for specific types of DNA that may indicate the presence of colon cancer. The test is designed to make it easier for patients to be screened for colorectal cancer than undergoing colonoscopy or submitting a stool sample to be screened for blood.
Susan Galandiuk, M.D., professor and program director of UofL’s Section of Colon and Rectal Surgery and director of the Price Institute for Surgical Research, said the availability of a simple blood test should increase the number of individuals who are screened for colorectal cancer, a very important step in reducing colorectal cancer deaths.
“The announcement of this new blood-based test highlights how important it is to be screened for colorectal cancer. We at UofL are developing an even more accurate blood test, but until that is available, we recommend that anyone over age 50, and African Americans over age 45, should use an approved screening test to help detect colorectal cancer. Anyone of any age who has persistent symptoms such as rectal bleeding or a change in bowel habit should be tested,” Galandiuk said.
Colorectal cancer is the third most frequent cancer diagnosed in both men and women according to the American Cancer Society. Galandiuk said that only two-thirds of Kentucky residents who should be screened are being screened due to the inconvenience of the previously available methods, and by the time the cancer is detected it often is advanced.
Colon cancer is preventable if the polyps that form in the colon are removed before they become cancerous. The blood test in development at UofL is aimed at detecting polyps in the colon, which then can be removed during a colonoscopy before they become cancerous. Galandiuk presented data on the test development last week at the 136th annual meeting of the American Surgical Association in Chicago.
The Epi proColon test, manufactured by Epigenomics, is available in Europe and some other countries. It detects methylated Septin9 DNA in the blood sample, which has been associated with colorectal cancer.