JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Based on results of a landmark study, researchers at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus see a future in which virtual biopsies will eliminate the need to remove colon polyps that are not cancerous or will not morph into the disease.
Currently one-third to one-half of the polyps removed during colonoscopies end up being harmless, but they need to be examined by pathologists, and this increases time, expense and the potential for complications to the beneficial screening.
At the annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology, Mayo Clinic gastroenterologists will present final details of a study testing a probe so sensitive that it can tell if a cell in the colon is becoming cancerous or not. They specifically found that the system, known as probe-based confocal laser endomicroscopy (pCLE), was 90 percent accurate in identifying benign or harmless polyps in patients. With further tweaking, the researchers believe pCLE can reach about 100 percent accuracy.
"Our goal is to remove only cancerous or precancerous polyps from patients during a colonoscopy, and I think we are close to that," says the study's lead investigator, Michael Wallace, M.D., M.P.H., professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic.
Mayo Clinic has been the U.S. leader in testing pCLE, among other endoscopic imaging technologies, and is one of three international institutions to have tested it in colon polyps. The system has been used under a research protocol for several years at Mayo. Now, physicians are starting to use it more broadly, especially to re-examine the colon in patients who previously had large, precancerous polyps removed and in pre-cancerous conditions elsewhere in the GI tract, such as Barrett's esophagus, Dr. Wallace says.
In this study, the researchers tested two different new imaging systems against the gold standard, which is examination of a removed polyp by a pathologist. "Using the expertise of a pathologist has
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