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Blood Test Reveals Colon Cancer Proteins

Johns Hopkins scientists have discovered proteins present in blood that accurately identify colon cancer and precancerous polyps . Initial studies of the proteins, CCSA-3 and CCSA-4, suggest they could be used to develop a blood test to identify at-risk individuals.

"The reality is that many people are not getting regular screening colonoscopies," says cancer researcher Robert Getzenberg, Ph.D. "So, ideally we'd like to identify those with some molecular for the disease and really need them."

Current screening guidelines for healthy people call for a baseline colonoscopy - colonic cleansing, fasting and heavy sedation followed by the insertion of a flexible, optical-scanning scope through the rectum into the colon -- at age 50, followed by re-screening at least every five to 10 years. Colonoscopy is not foolproof; cancers can develop between screenings.

First discovered by Getzenberg and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh through a protein scan, the two blood-dwelling proteins are thought to be remnants of cellular debris castoff from dead cancer cells. Although the proteins' roles are not entirely clear, the Johns Hopkins scientists say they are part of the scaffolding that supports structures within a cell's control center, the nucleus.

Alteration of such nuclear scaffolding is a hallmark of cancer cells that is easily detectable under the microscope as a misshapen and discolored nucleus. That led Getzenberg to the notion that "there must be something at the molecular level that would form a molecular flag for cancer via a blood test."

To find the flag, Getzenberg's team drew blood samples from 107 apparently healthy individuals the day before their scheduled colonoscopies, and from 28 colorectal cancer patients.

Using a particular concentration of scaffold-proteins as a marker for disease, the Johns Hopkins team - which did not know the colonoscopy results in advance -- were 100 pe
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