Even though the blood test only catches roughly 60 percent of colon cancers, researchers argue this is comparable to mammograms a widely accepted screening method that ultimately leads to a more invasive follow-up procedure.
"A positive mammogram leads on to a biopsy. A positive Methyl-BEAMing test would lead on to a colonoscopy," said Dr. Markowitz.
Researchers say that in addition to being used as a screening method in younger individuals or those who are unwilling or unable to have colonoscopies, the blood test can be used in between colonoscopies, and for monitoring of the disease after therapy. Furthermore, Markowitz believes that the discovery of additional colon cancer markers will further improve the value of the test.
"We anticipate that the Methyl-BEAMing test will be improved by testing for a panel of gene DNAs that become methylated in colon cancers. So far we have identified the vimentin gene as a DNA that gets methylated in most, but not all, colon cancers. We are working on discovering additional genes that become methylated in the remaining group of colon cancers that are not detected by the vimentin test," continued Dr. Markowitz.
Future applications of the blood test are not limited to colon cancers. The same technique could be applied to the detection of other cancers, or for pre-natal testing of diseases, like downs syndrome for which altered methylation is a hallmark of the disease.
|Contact: Christina DeAngelis|
Case Western Reserve University