Study will compare stool DNA screens with colonoscopy

A new, noninvasive technology for colon cancer screening is under study at University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center's Seidman Cancer Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, both in Cleveland, Ohio.

Investigators are seeking to enroll 1,600 patients in the 5-year study, which is designed to compare the effectiveness of stool DNA (sDNA) testing with colonoscopy in detecting large colon polyps. Although colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for colon cancer screening, it has limitations and it is vastly underutilized by the public, noted the study's clinical primary investigator, Gregory Cooper, MD, of UH Seidman.

“sDNA technology is a completely noninvasive approach and a complement to colonoscopy,” explained Cooper in a statement issued by UH Case Medical Center. “It is emerging as a promising alternative for patients who do not want to undergo colonoscopy or do not have access to the procedure.”

sDNA can also be beneficial during the years between colonoscopies, according to Cooper. The novel test, which was developed in the laboratory of oncologist Sanford Markowitz, MD, PhD, at UH Seidman, detects colon cancer in the disease's earliest stages through analysis of stool DNA. Markowitz and his colleagues found that a specific DNA change—methylation of the vimentin gene—takes place in colon cancers, and the team has developed techniques for sensitively detecting this change in DNA shed from colon cancers in the stool.

The study is funded as part of the National Cancer Institute's Specialized Program of Research Excellence in Gastrointestinal Cancers award to Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Eligible for enrollment are persons who are scheduled for screening colonoscopy at UH Case Medical Center and UH community-based practices. For more information, contact UH Seidman staff at 1-800-641-2422.

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