SAN FRANCISCO, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Researchers from Stanford University are exploring new ways to detect colorectal cancer via a blood test that would be less expensive, less invasive and more convenient than colonoscopy or other existing alternatives, a Stanford newsletter said in its latest edition.
Shan X. Wang, a professor of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford, is working with other researchers to test their new idea of using blood test to replace other current options in screening colorectal cancer, said Stanford Report, a newsletter delivering news about the university community via email.
Most of the existing alternatives to screen colorectal cancer involve gathering and testing stool samples, which are regarded by many patients as "an unpleasant procedure."
Wang and his team believed the blood test option is possible because even in the early development of colorectal cancers, genes from dead tumor cells appear in the bloodstream, said the newsletter.
But cancer-relevant genes are only around a 10th of a percent of the free-floating genetic material found in blood, which poses a huge challenge to be detected and identified.
Jared Nesvet, a member of the research team, said they are using magnetic tags that attach only to genes associated with colon cancer.
As soon as the tags are attached to cancer-relevant genes, the researchers can suck those genes out of a blood sample with a small magnetic field and test whether colorectal cancer is developing or not, said Stanford Report.
The new method is working well in the lab so far, said Nesvet, adding they are planning to test it on blood samples from real patients in the future.
Despite the laboratory success, Wang said a new screen for colon cancer is still a ways off.
"I expect this will be a five- to 10-year study to bring this technology to fruition," he said.