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The evolution to stool DNA testing for colorectal cancer

Despite a variety of screening strategies and recent trends showing death rate stabilization, colorectal cancer still remains the second leading cause of overall cancer death. Current screening tools suffer from performance limitations, low patient acceptability, and marginal reliable access within the health care system. Noninvasive strategies present the lowest risk with the highest potential for patient satisfaction. However, serious implementation barriers exist requiring consistent programmatic screening, strict patient adherence, and poor sensitivity for adenomas. Colonoscopy remains an invasive screening test with the best sensitivity and specificity, but faces large financial costs, manpower requirements, patient access and adherence. Development of advanced molecular techniques identifying altered DNA markers in exfoliated colonocytes signify early or precancerous growth. Stool-based DNA testing provides an entirely noninvasive population-based screening strategy which patients can perform easier than faecal occult blood testing (FOBT). Large-scale prospective randomized control trials currently pending should help characterize accurate test performance, screening intervals, cost-effectiveness, direct comparison to FOBT and analysis of patient adherence. As tumour development pathways and potential target genes are further elucidated, refinements in multi-assay stool-based DNA testing portend enhanced test characteristics to detect and treat this genetically heterogeneous disease.

Authors: Tagore KS; Levin TR; Lawson MJ

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2004 Jun 15;19(12):1225-33.

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