Researchers have developed a rapid and infallible test for bowel cancer based upon a molecule found only in cancer cells. We already know that bowel cancer is highly curable if caught early. Screening with sigmoidoscopy - an internal exam of the bowel can reduce the incidence of the disease. Now researchers in the find that a reliable test can also be done on samples of feces.
The bowel sheds cells into feces all the time. The researchers have based their test upon the presence or absence of a molecule called MCM2, which is indicative of cell division. It is found only in cells that are actively dividing - that is, pre-cancerous or cancerous cells. In a trial, involving both bowel cancer patients and healthy controls, 30 out of 45 in the patient group tested positive for MCM2, compared to none in the control group.
It's an exciting development - but more research is needed to assess the role of the MCM2 test. The researchers think it may best be employed in conjunction with sigmoidoscopy, to pick up more early cancers. It may also be applied to the detection of other cancers, where MCM2 could play a role.