According to the American Cancer Society, among patients who are diagnosed with colon cancer, less than half undergo proper screening processes. Moreover, most are diagnosed in advanced stages when there is little in the way of treatment that can be performed to prolong life. In an effort to improve these statistics and increase the efficiency of a proper screening test to ensure the possibility of colon cancer, researchers at the Baylor Research Institute, an arm of Baylor Scott & White Health, have been working on an improved screening test for detecting a biomarker related to colon cancer, serum miR 21 (a micro RNA), in a person’s blood sample. This new test, once completed, will help in detecting the cancer even before it develops.
The early phases of this test yielded positive results on being performed in tandem with regular colonoscopies. As a result, researchers have started recruiting volunteers for a second round of clinical trials. A total of 400 volunteers are needed, with 200 healthy volunteers slated to receive a colonoscopy, and the remaining who are already diagnosed with colon cancer but have yet to undergo chemo and radiation therapy. The Research coordinator will collect blood samples from each patient and test for the presence of the marker. The Research coordinator for this study is Allison Cox.
The study is being led by Dr. Richard Boland, MD, of Baylor University Medical Center’s Division of Gastroenterology: “Our aim is to improve those sobering statistics and to make available more convenient screening options. We’re encouraged by the initial results and are optimistic that measuring levels of miR-21 in the blood can help identify not only cancer tumors, but also cancer risks.”
With the Baylor Research Institute already being known for its involvement in research towards human immunology, orphan metabolic diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and a host of other medical conditions, here’s hoping their latest endeavor becomes successful in instilling a ray of hope for the millions living under the threat of the menace that is colorectal cancer.
About Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths, and the third leading cancer affecting both men and women in the United States. A study by the CDC (data from 2010) suggests that approximately 132,000 people, including 68,000 men and 64,000 women, were affected by the disease, and close to 52,405 people died from colorectal cancer. The disease spreads as a result of uncontrolled cell growth in the colon and rectum, leading to rectal bleeding and anemia and associated with changes in bowel habits and weight loss at times.
Because colorectal cancer’s symptoms can be non-specific and cause considerable damage to the body at the same, it is important to get screened in order to detect it in its initial stages. According to the recommendations by the American Cancer Society, Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) and Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) and stool DNA testings should be done every year followed by a colonoscopy if tests are positive. Double Contrast Barium Enemas (DCBE) can also be performed when people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer. These processes, though minimally invasive, have limited efficiency and can also provide false-positive results.