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New technique for colon cancer detection

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Researchers have developed a new non-invasive method of detecting early-stage colon cancer. According to statistics, in the United States colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer -related death. It should be noted that these numbers have declined significantly in recent decades due to screening methods and due to advances made regarding the treatment of this cancer.

Bettina Scholtka , Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Toxicology at the University of Potsdam in Nuthetal, Germany, explained that in stools there can be found tumor cells detached from the surface of tumor or precancerous lesions, but this is very difficult when there is a large amount of normal DNA from other cells. She said that they were able to create a test with high sensitivity by combining two techniques locked nucleic acid -based, wild -type blocking polymerase chain reaction and high -resolution melting. Scholtka specified that the high sensitivity of this test allows to detect even small amounts of different types of mutations that initiate cancer.

cancer detection


Genetic variations in APC and KRAS genes are present in approximately 60% and 40 % of patients with colorectal cancer. These genetic variations are also present in precancerous lesions, which means that methods that detect these variations can detect cancer in early stages. The new technique developed by researchers at the University of Potsdam in Nuthetal , is 5000-fold more sensitive than other non-invasive techniques: it can detect a single cancer – specific gene variation among 10,000 times the amount of normal DNA.

Scholtka said that a multicenter study must be done in order to validate the sensitivity and specificity of this technique to compare it with other screening methods such as colonoscopy. Therefore, the researchers analyzed 80 human colon tissue samples ( colon cancer and precancer ) using two techniques : locked nucleic acid ( LNA ) -based , wild -type blocking ( WTB ) polymerase chain reaction and high -resolution melting ( HRM ). The first technique destroys normal DNA while the second technique detects the possible genetic variations found in stools.

The researchers were able to find variations in the APC gene in 41 of the 80 samples. It should be noted that these methods were able to detect APC gene variations that have not been previously discovered with other methods. Direct sequencing  had a much lower sensitivity as genetic variations were detected in only 28 samples. Then when researchers investigated 22 stool samples from patients who had APC variations and 9 control cases, the APC variations were detected in 21 of 22 samples.