Analysing DNA markers from tumors can now be helpful to identify cancer in gastrointestinal tracts. A non-invasive blood test or stool sample could mean greater convenience for patients and save lives through earlier diagnosis of cancer.
A team of Mayo Clinic researchers studied normal as well as patients with colon or pancreatic cancer. By collecting and identifying methylated DNA in a blood test, they were able to identify the presence and origin of the cancerous cells with about 80% accuracy.
"What's exciting about our discovery is that it allows us to stop thinking about screening organs and start thinking about screening people. We think, based on the data we have, that a blood test could work in the future," said Dr. Kisiel.
Finding and correctly identifying distinctive methylated DNA from the cancers in a blood or stool sample may change the organ-by-organ search for cancer. Dr. Kisiel said, "DNA methylation may be a way to fingerprint not only the tissues themselves, but also the different types of cancer that might arise in those tissues."
They hope that in the future patients might be able to submit a blood specimen and it can be analyzed for the presence and absence of cancer markers. And if they are present they will be able to determine the anatomic location of the tumor, or the organ from which it originates.
Dr. Kisiel's research applied specifically to the gastrointestinal tract. "We've not yet tested this concept in cancers throughout the entire body, but that is the next step," he said.