So many over 60s live in fear of Colorectal cancer, the third most widespread cancer in the world. Knowing it develops with minimal symptoms in the early stages strikes fear through people and the knowledge that the five year survival rate does not exceed 36% means the focus is on early detection and earlier treatment for sufferers.
The diagnostic methods used for colon cancer are not sufficient. Invasive processes like colonoscopy are not only traumatic, but they are also not always suitable for an early diagnosis, as they do not give a complete picture of the development and distribution of colorectal cancer. And people are unfortunately resistant to taking their at-home preventive tests, even though they are provided by the government with the goals of reducing the toll.
The discovery is that Colorectal cancer can be detected earlier and with greater precision, without invasive tests, with the simultaneous detection of various substances in patients’ blood.
The testing looks for the combination of the following substances: autoantibodies against tumour-associated glycans, which can be found in serum at the early stages of cancer; immunoglobulins of different classes; and oncomarkers (molecules produced by tumour cells).
Oncomarkers are already widely used to detect cancer. However, the combination which is used to detect CRC is not sensitive enough and is only able to detect 1 in 2 cases of the disease.
To increase diagnostic sensitivity, researchers turned to glycobiology, that is focused on the most important biological molecules – glycans. Besides acting as nutrients and building materials for cells, glycans are important for the contact between cells, appropriate organ growth and much more.
Tumour cells have special glycans enabling scientists to differentiate them from healthy cells. To detect tumour-associated glycans, scientists use autoantibodies. Autoantibodies against tumour-associated glycans react exclusively with glycans that are only found in CRC cells. The researchers proposed looking for autoantibodies against tumour-associated glycans in serum.
The structure of the gel provides an optimal environment for conducting tests, and the scientists were able to solve a number of problems to ensure more accurate diagnoses.
The scientists analysed the sera of 33 patients with colorectal cancer, 69 healthy donors and 27 patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Researchers were able to diagnose CRC in 95 per cent of cases, compared to 79 per cent detected by traditional methods. The sensitivity of CRC detection (in patients with Stage II-IV CRC) was 87 per cent versus 21 per cent.