New blood tests could make colorectal cancer detection cheaper and simpler, research from two studies suggests.
Researchers from OncoMethylome Sciences in Belgium carried out DNA tests on 193 colorectal cancer patients and 688 controls. They found that two genes, SYNE1 and FOXE, occurred with high frequency in cancer patients, but were rarely found in healthy controls.
They then developed a blood test for these genes. It was 77 per cent sensitive and 91 per cent specific for colorectal cancer.
Dr Joost Louwagie from OncoMethylome Sciences commented: 'This test has potential to provide a better balance of performance, cost-effectiveness and patient compliance than other options available.'
Researchers from Germany have developed a separate new test to help diagnose colonic, rectal and gastric cancers.
Professor Ulrike Stein from the Max Delbruck Centre for Molecular Medicine in Berlin and her team examined RNA in blood plasma samples from patients with GI tumours.
They found that the S100A4 mRNA transcript was present at significantly higher levels in patients with the cancer than healthy controls.
The researchers believe their test may be useful for screening at-risk populations.
Both studies' findings were presented at the European Cancer Organization-European Society for Medical Oncology conference in Berlin this week.
Professor David Weller, of the department of community health sciences at Edinburgh University, said he believed it was important to keep an open mind about new screening tests for colorectal cancer.
Blood tests can readily be incorporated into primary care practice, he pointed out.
'Screening with the faecal occult blood tests is widely established, but problems remain with poor uptake, particularly in deprived communities and some ethnic sub-groups.
'While further evaluation is needed, to some, a blood test may present less of a barrier to participation,' he added.