Bowel cancer biomarkers from Down Under catch U.S. attention

A pair of newly discovered genetic biomarkers from Australian company Clinical Genomics has caught the eye of Quest Diagnostics, and the diagnostics company has exercised its commercial option to license these markers to develop a new generation of blood-based colon cancer tests for the U.S. market.

The 5-year survival rate for bowel cancer is only 66%. A simple and accurate blood test could save lives by making early diagnosis simpler, when the disease is more treatable. It could also be more acceptable to patients than the standard fecal occult blood (FOB) screen, improving the chance of people coming forward for screening.

"When caught early, colon cancer is highly treatable. Yet, colon cancer is a major cause of cancer death globally, largely because many patients cannot or will not be tested by colonoscopy, fecal occult blood testing and other guideline-recommended procedures," says Lawrence LaPointe, Clinical Genomics' CEO.

The pair of genes, known as Gemini, have come out of more than 5 years of research between Clinical Genomics, CSIRO and the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer. The combination of the two genes, BCAT1 and IKZF1, showed a good detection rate and a low false-positive rate in a study of 251 patients at high risk of bowel cancer. A larger study is under way, expected to complete early next year.

Quest Diagnostics will look at incorporating these markers in its ColoVantage test, which is based on detecting the gene biomarker Septin9. The agreement is part of a longstanding strategic alliance agreement between the two companies, and LaPointe sees this as a validation of the company's approach. Financial terms have not been disclosed.

- read the press release about the bowel biomarkers
- see the press release about Quest Diagnostics