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Simple test could detect cancers

USING just a stool sample, doctors may be able to detect colon and many other cancers of the digestive tract including stomach, pancreatic, bile duct and esophageal cancer, United States researchers said yesterday.

They said the test, which detects genetic material shed from the surface of cancer cells, found nearly 70 percent of cancers present in a group of patients with assorted cancers of the digestive tract.

And the test accurately showed negative results in all 70 healthy patients they tested, Dr David Ahlquist of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota told the Digestive Disease Week meeting in Chicago.

Researchers at Mayo designed the stool sample test as a noninvasive way to find colon cancer, but they now believe it could help detect many different types of cancers of the digestive tract.

"It's very exciting to see this level of sensitivity for digestive cancer detection in our first look at this test application," Ahlquist said.

The test looks for evidence of DNA changes shed from the lining of the colon and rectum. Cells from the surface of cancerous tumors and precancerous polyps show recognizable DNA changes or markers.

Several of these DNA markers have been identified and can be isolated in stool samples from people with colon and rectal tumors.

"Historically, we've approached cancer screening one organ at a time," Ahlquist said, but he said stool DNA test could open the door to early detection of cancers currently not screened.


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