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Blood Test May Predict Colon Cancer Spread

Researchers Identify Proteins That May Be Used as Biomarkers for Aggressive Colon Cancer

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH

March 4, 2010 -- A blood test may soon be able to predict which colon cancers are likely to spread to other parts of the body, according to a new study.

Researchers found two proteins in the blood that may serve as potential biomarkers of colon cancers that are more aggressive and likely to spread.

Colon cancer is a leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. with more than 50,000 deaths reported each year. Surgery is the main treatment for the disease, but almost half of those treated for colon cancer experience a recurrence of the disease within five years due to cancer cells spreading to other parts of the body.

Researchers say determining which colon cancers will spread is difficult because there are no reliable chemical markers in the body for predicting its spread, known in medical terms as metastasis.

In the study, published in the Journal of Proteome Research, Chinese researchers compared proteins produced by the original colon cancer tumor cells to those of metastasized cells from a single person with colon cancer.

The results highlighted two proteins that occurred at much higher levels in the metastatic cells than in the original colon cancer cells.

Although further research is needed to confirm these findings, researchers say the proteins may bring them a step closer to understanding the disease.

"The identified candidate proteins," write researchers Hua Xue of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, and colleagues, "will facilitate our understanding toward the molecular mechanism of [colorectal cancer] metastasis as well as providing useful biomarkers for cancer prevention, detection and intervention in the future."

SOURCES: Xue, H. Journal of Proteome Research; March 2010; vol 9: pp 545-555.

News release, American Chemistry Society.

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