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Can Colon Cancer Be Detected in the Stool?

Fox Chase Cancer Center Study Examines Experimental Colon Cancer Screening Tool

PHILADELPHIA (January 30, 2002) -- Fox Chase Cancer Center is evaluating a new experimental screening test for colorectal cancer for people who are at an average risk of the disease. The new test , the EXACT Panel, will determine if colon cancer cells are shed and if they can be detected in the stool. People considered at an average risk of colorectal cancer include men and women 50 years of age and older who have not had a family history of colorectal cancer and do not have any symptoms of colon cancer including blood in the stool.

The new test will examine the DNA (genetic material) of cells shed from the colon into the stool to look for changes associated with colorectal cancer.

Approximately 5,000 people from 40 centers across the United States will participate in this study involving three different types of tests for colorectal cancer. The primary objective of this study is to compare the performance of the new experimental screening test, the EXACT Panel, to the fecal occult blood test. Both tests will also be compared against the colonoscopy.

A colonoscopy is the most accurate way to examine a colon. During a colonoscopy, the patient is sedated while a physician examines the colon using a long, thin tube. A colonoscopy allows the physician to inspect the colon for polyps and other abnormal conditions.

The fecal occult blood test, or FOBT, is a standard, non-invasive colorectal screening test used to identify the presence of blood in the stool. Blood is sometimes an indicator of cancer or other problems in the colon and rectum. Participants in the study will undergo a colonoscopy and will be asked to provide four stool samples for the fecal occult blood test and the EXACT panel. The stool samples will be gathered in the privacy of the participant's own home.

David S. Weinberg, MD, MSc - Chair, Internal Medicine; Chief, Gastroenterology, Internal Medicine and the study's principal investigator at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

"Right now, a colonoscopy is the gold-standard for identifying colon cancer or pre-cancerous polyps. Though a colonoscopy is highly effective, it is sometimes uncomfortable. We're looking for a simple test that doesn't have the barriers of a colonoscopy, but is as accurate and effective for people at an average risk of developing colorectal cancer."

When colorectal cancer is diagnosed early, 90 percent of patients live a cancer free life, but as Weinberg explains, thousands of people still die each year.

"In 2001, more than 56,700 people are expected to die of colon cancer. Like with many other cancers, if colon cancer is caught early, curing it is possible. Unfortunately, 63 percent of the cases are diagnosed at a late stage. Screening rates among individuals at average risk for the disease remain low, and it is our hope to facilitate increased screening by removing many of the barriers perceived with currently available first-line screening methods."

To be eligible for the study, participants must be between 55 and 80 years old, an age group when colon screening is recommended, but not have any symptoms or a medical history that puts them at a high risk for colorectal cancer.

Participants must not have had a colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy or barium enema in the past 10 years. Women who are lactating or pregnant are not eligible for this study. The EXACT panel test and the FOBT involve no direct risk of injury since they are performed on the stool samples and not the participants. Some risks are associated with a colonoscopy and will be discussed with participants. For more information about the study, please call 1-888-FOX CHASE (1-888-369-2427).

Fox Chase Cancer Center, one of the nation's first comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute in 1974, conducts basic and clinical research; programs of prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach. For more information about Fox Chase activities, visit the Center's web site at

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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