A group of Spanish institutions are collaborating to develop an early test for colorectal cancer, the second-highest cause of cancer death in the Western world, killing 50,000 people every year. Detecting and treating cancer early can have a huge impact on the survival rate--early stage, the disease has a 91% survival rate at 5 years according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC), compared with 11% for cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
Colorectal cancer screens currently include fecal occult blood tests, which, while they are simple and low-cost, have high false negative and false positive rates. Fecal immunochemical testing is more accurate, but more expensive. Colonoscopies and biopsies are invasive and can lead to bleeding and perforation of the gut.
The researchers used genetic and statistical techniques to screen more than 22,000 genes, and created a subset of gene markers that could differentiate between cancer and normal tissue with high levels of accuracy. The results are published in BMC Cancer.
The aim of the research is to create a low-cost device that combines biomarker measurement and mathematical modeling for testing that is simpler, less invasive and more accurate, and which could improve compliance and reduce healthcare costs overall. The next step for the researchers will be to link the results with different stages of the disease.
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