A new method of isolating colon cells from naturally passed feces may lead to a way to detect colorectal cancer early, according to Japanese researchers.
Dr. Yasuhiro Matsumura said that in developing the technique they predicted that when cells were exfoliated from the walls of the colon “the cancer cells would likely survive for a long time in feces.”
Matsumura, of the National Cancer Center Hospital East, Kashiwa City and colleagues tested the feasibility of using this notion to assess feces from 116 patients with colorectal cancer and from 83 healthy volunteers.
To isolate the colon cells from fecal samples, the researchers used magnetic beads covered with antibodies that latch on to proteins on the surface of the cells. The specimens are diluted and the beads added, after which a magnet pulls out the bead-attached cells.
When the colon cells were retrieved, atypical cells were detected in 28 percent of the cancer patients and none of the volunteers, the team reports in the medical journal Gastroenterology.
Upon DNA analysis, genetic alterations were seen in cells from 82 of the cancer patients, but from only 10 of the volunteers without cancer.
Given these encouraging findings, Matsumura said that his group is planning to compare their method of colon cancer screening with the well-known fecal occult blood test, to determine its accuracy “in a real screening population and to verify its clinical usefulness and medical economics.”
SOURCE: Gastroenterology, December 2005.
Revision date: July 9, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD