Through use of this single vimentin marker, the researchers were able to detect colon cancer in 46 percent of patients studied, compared with 15 percent for the standard fecal occult blood test. The vimentin marker was also very effective in detecting colon cancer in the early stages of development, when the disease is most curable.
The researchers targeted a gene called vimentin that usually does not play a role in normal colon cells, but serves as a marker for the development of colorectal cancer. The analysis, which was performed using vimentin alone and no other markers in the panel, relied on DNA extracted from stool samples of the participating patients. The analysis detected cancers in 43 of 94 patients (46 percent), and detected early stages of cancer in 26 out of 60 cases, or 43 percent of the time.
Although the analysis with vimentin picked up less than half of the colon cancers studied, the news is highly encouraging, according to Sanford Markowitz, M.D., Ph.D., the paper's senior author, who said vimentin appears to be a powerful marker that could be used in combination with other DNA markers to dramatically increase the rate of detection. "We are now working with our collaborators at EXACT Sciences to combine vimentin with other DNA markers to see if we can develop a panel of tests that will ultimately detect
Contact: George Stamatis
Case Western Reserve University