Help test a new colorectal cancer screen

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Barbara Ruben

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States, and about 51,000 people will die of the disease this year, according to the National Cancer Institute

It is often considered the most preventable, yet least prevented cancer. Colorectal cancer is highly treatable if found early, but 40 percent of adults age 50 and older do not get screened as recommended.

Exact Sciences, a molecular diagnostics company focused on colorectal cancer, is now studying a new screening test to detect colorectal cancer and pre-cancerous conditions. The test works by detecting specific altered DNA sequences in cells that are shed from the lining of the colon into the stool, which is collected in a test kit at home

“This test would not supplant colonoscopy. This would select patients for colonoscopy who would have a high likelihood of needing it, [those] who probably have colon cancer or a large polyp,” said Dr. Robert Hardi, medical director and principal investigator with Chevy Chase Clinical Research, which is one of 77 practices around the country conducting the study.

 “There remains a significant unmet medical need to provide additional options for patients at average risk for colorectal cancer. We believe this test could become a great tool for the early detection of this terrible disease and help many of the thousands of patients who are currently not getting screened,” said Kevin T. Conroy, president and chief executive of Exact Sciences, which is seeking FDA approval of the test.

Get a colonoscopy, too

Those taking part in the study will make one 15- to 30-minute visit to Chevy Chase Clinical Research for a pre-colonoscopy visit and get a use a take-home stool sample collection kit. The sample is returned via FedEx.

Participants then must make an appointment to have a colonoscopy within 90 days.

Researchers will compare the results of the new stool test with one that is already on the market as well as with the findings of the colonoscopy.

Compensation of $150 is offered for collecting the sample. Participants must use their own health insurance or Medicare to cover the colonoscopy.

Who can participate?

To qualify for the study, participants must be between 50 and 84 years old and be at average risk for colon cancer. That means those with inflammatory bowel disease, including chronic ulcerative colitis (CUC) and Crohn's disease, cannot take part, nor can those with parents, siblings or children who have had colorectal cancer.

Participants cannot have had colorectal cancer, adenoma or aerodigestive tract cancer. They cannot have had colorectal surgery for any reason other than sigmoid divertiular disease.

They also cannot have had a positive fecal occult blood test within the last six months and cannot have had a colonoscopy within the last nine years.

To learn more about the study, call Chevy Chase Clinical Research at (301) 652-5520 or see www.exactsciences.com.