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Potential Non-Invasive DNA Test for Gastric and Colorectal Cancers

Preliminary testing of methylation patterns in two gene promoters in fecal DNA indicates that this might be a feasible non-invasive approach to detecting gastric and colorectal cancers. The researchers found that extensive methylation of the RASSF2 and SFRP2 gene promoters was much more likely to be found in advanced gastric tumors and colorectal tumors than in normal tissue. Methylation markers were detected in 57% of gastric cancer patients, 75% of colorectal cancer patients, and 44% of subjects with advanced colorectal adenomas, but only 10.6% of patients with none of these cancers. Because many patients are reluctant to undergo invasive tests for the detection of gastrointestinal cancers, the development of non-intrusive screening tests is desirable. Especially in cancer patients, some cells are sloughed off from the gastrointestinal tract, so small amounts of DNA from these cells present in stool samples can be examined for the presence of cancer biomarkers. "Selection of adequate biomarkers is critical to the success of any screening methodology," the authors wrote. "By identifying disease-specific methylation patterns for human fecal DNA from advanced gastric and colorectal tumors, we could more accurately identify subjects at high risk for developing, or having developed, advanced tumors." This work was published online on August 21 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. [Press release] [JNCI abstract]