"This test, if broadly applied, should have a very important impact on reducing both the mortality and incidence of colorectal cancer," Ahlquist said. "If we can minimize the false positives, that will reduce the cost of the whole screening program by avoiding unnecessary colonoscopies."
The screening test is currently undergoing FDA validation in a study in the United States and Canada. This study is expected to conclude in the fall.
The Mayo Clinic and Ahlquist reported having a financial interest in the screening technology.
Experts in colon cancer prevention said the test seems to have pros and cons.
"This test offers significant potential to improve upon current stool-based tests as it is unaffected by diet, lifestyle and other important factors which affect current stool-based testing," noted Dr. David Bernstein, chief of the division of gastroenterology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.
"The need for colonoscopy, however, would be unlikely to change as this test relies upon specific colon cancer gene markers which may not account for all cases of colon cancer," he added. "This test may be useful in distinguishing low- from high-risk individuals at risk for colon cancer."
For his part, Cohen said the particular gene-based approach used by the Mayo screen is "likely to improve the sensitivity and specificity of this stool DNA test." But he said that stool-based screening still falls short in accurately spotting certain precancerous lesions of the colon compared to colonoscopy.
"An additional challenge for stool testing is cost," Cohen added. "Cost analyses of stool DNA testing have found it to be less cost-effective than any other method of colorectal screening," he said.
Research presented at medical meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
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