By now, many of us are aware that colon cancer is a common and lethal disease. Â How come is it? Â For those at average risk, the lifetime incidence is roughly 5%. Â For those of us who have first-degree family members with colon cancer, particularly those with an onset before 50, the risk is even greater. Â In the United States, colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death.
70-80% of colon cancers typically occur in those deemed to have an average risk. Â For this population, guidelines typically recommend screening after the age of 50. Â Current methods including either a fecal occult blood test every one to two years (the yuck test) or a screening colonoscopy every 10 years.
The problem with these screening tests is two-fold. Â Both patient adherence (around 15%) and the accuracy itself (sensitivity of approximately 30%) of the FOB test limit its effectiveness while it’s simply not practical to perform screening colonoscopies on the entire population over 50.
[colored_box color=”blue”]Dr. Richard Fedorak (director, Centre of Excellence for Gastrointestinal Inflammation and Immunity Research, University of Alberta), tests a urine sample in the lab. He is developing a new urine test to replace the fecal matter test for pre-cancerous colon polyp screening. Photograph by: Larry Wong , edmontonjournal.com[/colored_box]
Urine Test for Colon Cancer
Fortunately, the FOB test may soon be a thing of the past. Â Researchers at the University of Alberta includingÂ Drs. Richard Fedorak and Haili Wang have developed a new testing method that can detect metabolites of pre-cancerous polyps in frozen urine samples.
How accurate is the urine test? The first version had an accuracy rate of 82% while the second version tested with a 97% accuracy.
MetabolomicÂ Technologies Inc
When will this technology be available? Â According to Dr. Fedorak, the urine screening test could be available to Albertans as soon as late 2012. Current plans suggest that the new University of Alberta spin-out company, Metabolomic Technologies Inc, will commercialize the product. Â Estimates suggest that it will cost between $50 to $100 per test compared to the far less-accurate Â (and pleasant) FOB test.
For all of the impressive research conducted at my alma mater, this revolutionary urine screening test could finally put the University of Alberta on the map. Â Up until this point, it has done a fairly modest job of branding itself. Â More importantly, the high sensitivity of the test itself combined with its convenient sample collection and relatively inexpensive cost should help prevent innumerable deaths for colon cancer.