The Medical Technology Blog

Results of a survey conducted at europacolon’s European CRC Patient Conference show that patients believe tests using blood samples would encourage more people to participate in regular screening for colorectal cancer.

The survey was jointly conducted by Epigenomics and europacolon, a European non-profit organisation dedicated to colorectal cancer. Of the participants in the survey, more than 50 per cent had previously heard of the possibility of colorectal cancer blood testing and more than 70 per cent thought that using a blood test would encourage more people to participate in regular screening for the condition. Some of the most often mentioned reasons that survey participants gave for preferring blood tests were ease-of-use and simplicity, not having to handle stool samples as necessary for conventional non-invasive testing, and overall fit with other routine blood tests.

In June, Quest Diagnostics, one of Epigenomics’ partners in the US, in collaboration with the non-profit organisation Colon Cancer Alliance, reported the results of a US national telephone survey of more than 1,300 men and women 50 years of age and older. In this survey, 31 per cent of the participants reported that they had never been screened for CRC. Of the respondents between 60 to 70 years of age that had previously participated in screening, 33 per cent stated that they had only been screened once in the past. These results highlight widespread lack of adherence to national guidelines in the US, which recommend regular screening by colonoscopy in combination with other tests for colorectal cancer for all men and women aged 50 and older. When asked about the option of a blood test, 78 per cent of the participants said that they were likely to take a blood test for colorectal cancer screening and 75 per cent said they were more likely to get screened more frequently if a blood test was offered to them.

According to Dr Jürgen Beck, Senior VP Medical Affairs of Epigenomics, the lack of widespread acceptance and regular use of conventional methods for the early detection of colorectal cancer, such as colonoscopy and stool tests, severely limits the potential of screening to reduce mortality from this common cancer. The two surveys in Europe and the US show the potential of blood-based screening as an approach to increase compliance. Epigenomics expects these findings to be substantiated further through studies into patient preferences and screening adherence that are ongoing at clinical centres in the US and Europe.

Epigenomics has developed an in vitro diagnostic blood test for the early detection of colorectal cancer, known as the Septin9 test. Alongside its partner, Abbott, the companies already market their respective first-generation CE-marked Septin9 tests in Europe, the Middle East, Asia/Pacific and further markets. Epigenomics is in the process of developing a second-generation Septin9 assay as a colorectal cancer screening test for the US and European markets. The company expects to submit this enhanced Septin9 colorectal cancer screening test, branded Epi proColon 2.0, to the FDA for regulatory review before the end of the year. Under licences from Epigenomics, Septin9 testing is currently offered in the US by Quest Diagnostics (ColoVantage) and ARUP Laboratories (Methylated Septin9 Test) as laboratory-developed tests aiding in the detection of colorectal cancer.

This article was provided by Sophie Sanderson, editor of Espicom’s newsletter Diagnostics Focus.

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Todays article in the Medical Technology Blog is provided by Sophie Sanderson who is the editor of Diagnostics Focus, please read on…

A move to tackle the rates of lung cancer detection and survival by researchers in Germany seems to have led to an interesting new test that could potentially help save the lives of smokers in the future. The blood test, which is the result of work carried out by colleagues from the University of Cologne and University of Bonn, would make it easier to detect a lung tumour and improve the chances of survival.

The aim of the research was to develop a subsequent test that was not only able to differentiate lung cancer patients from healthy subjects, but also from persons with chronic lung diseases. The blood of over 200 smokers was studied, half of whom had lung cancer. Examining the research subjects’ blood using biochips for certain nucleic acids led to the finding of typical patters. Interestingly, over 480 molecules were recognised whose concentration in the blood changes when a person develops lung cancer. These nucleic acid molecules can be seen in the blood cells either in increased or decreased quantities and form in the body when certain genes are transcribed. In patients with lung cancer, a typical pattern emerges that can be detected with a measuring programme.

The stakes are huge and the development of a test for lung cancer offers huge potential. Lung cancer is already the second most common cancer in the UK, and in many cases the cause can often be linked back to smoking. Although people who have never smoked can also get lung cancer, nine out of ten cases are related to smoking. There are four different stages to lung cancer, going from stage I where the cancer is small and only in one area of the lung, to stage IV where the cancer has spread to another part of the body. Dr Joachim Schultze comments that “The prognosis for patients in stage III and IV is still very poor even today; even with the most modern therapies, the point of death can only be postponed.” When considering stage I lung cancer, it can be treated surgically and in most cases it can be cured, however, a tumour is detected in only about 15 per cent of all such cases.

It is anticipated that if a boost to the detection rates could be achieved with the use of a screening blood test, it could lead to an increase in survival rates. In the future, there is the potential for a lung cancer screening test to become part of routine practice. Whether this can be achieved remains to be seen, but for researchers the positive results will serve as an encouraging development.

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