Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers. Early detection could help reduce the risk of death from this disease.
In this study, Dr Hannes Müller from the Medical University Innsbruck, Austria, and colleagues investigated whether patients with colorectal cancer could be identified by testing stool samples for changes in DNA methylation.
|SFRP2 methylation had a sensitivity of 77 to 90% and a specificity of 77%.|
The researchers used a PCR assay to identify DNA changes in stools from patients with the disease and from healthy controls. They assessed the most promising DNA methylation markers from a long list of candidate genes.
They then tested for these potential markers in samples from patients and healthy controls. The team evaluated a total of 49 individuals.
They found that a gene known as SFRP2 was methylated more frequently in DNA from the stools of patients with colorectal cancer than in samples from people without the disease. This had a sensitivity of 77 to 90% and specificity of 77%.
SFRP2 methylation could, therefore, be useful as a marker in screening for colorectal cancer.
Dr Martin Widschwendter, the principle investigator of this study, commented, "To our knowledge, SFRP2 methylation represents one of the most sensitive markers for identifying colorectal cancer, besides mutation analysis and protein analysis, in stool samples".
"Whether a panel of genetic and epigenetic markers in stool could be used to identify colorectal cancer at an early stage remains to be shown."