West Virginia University team study blood test for colorectal cancer

6 March 2019 (Last Updated March 6th, 2019 12:16)

A research team at West Virginia University's Cancer Institute is investigating a new blood test to see if it can be used to detect colorectal cancer.

West Virginia University team study blood test for colorectal cancer
The researchers intend to bring the new test to patients through their mobile mammography unit called Bonnie’s Bus. Credit: West Virginia University.

A research team at West Virginia University’s Cancer Institute is investigating a new blood test to see if it can be used to detect colorectal cancer.

Approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the test identifies abnormal SEPT9 genes.

As part of the assessment, the research team will collect blood samples from 300 female participants. If the test detects SEPT9 in a sample, that patients will be recommended for a colonoscopy, a more invasive procedure that is currently used to diagnose and treat colorectal cancer.

Results from the blood test will be compared to those of the colonoscopy to evaluate its accuracy and sensitivity.

Though multiple screening options are available for colorectal cancer, the new diagnostic is expected to offer a cost-effective and easy-to-use alternative.

“This study is testing the acceptability of the screening test in our population and the feasibility of offering this alternative colorectal cancer screening on a mobile mammography unit.”

WVU Cancer Institute associate director Stephenie Kennedy-Rea said: “People delay or do not screen for a number of reasons, including fear, access to care, lack of insurance that covers the test, travel, time and lack of awareness for the need of colorectal cancer screening.

“We need to shine the light on the need for colorectal cancer screening and the fact that there are a number of evidence-based screening options available to patients.”

The researchers intend to test patients through a mobile mammography unit called Bonnie’s Bus, which has previously been used by the university to deliver breast cancer screenings to rural locations in the region. The new test will be offered to the women that come to the mobile unit for breast cancer screenings.

Kennedy-Rea added: “This study is testing the acceptability of the screening test in our population and the feasibility of offering this alternative colorectal cancer screening on a mobile mammography unit.”

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that colorectal cancer screening rates are lower than those for cervical or breast cancer.

The researchers expect the study findings to help drive the inclusion of the blood test in the US Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendations for colorectal cancer screening.