Study to Determine Accuracy of Stool Tests for Colorectal Cancer

January 27, 2018

The gold standard test for colon cancer detection is for patients to undergo a colonoscopy. However, the development of the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) provides patients with a noninvasive option that can be completed at home and would allow patients to forego the colonoscopy, if results are negative.

The gold standard test for colon cancer detection is for patients to undergo a colonoscopy. However, the development of the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) provides patients with a noninvasive option that can be completed at home and would allow patients to forego the colonoscopy, if results are negative.

In an effort to determine how accurate the FIT tests are, faculty at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, in tandem with a team of scientists from across the United States, are beginning a research consortium.

Researchers were awarded $4.5 million over 5 years as part of the Cancer Moonshot, funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute.

“There are 16 FIT tests currently on the United States market, but there are no data on which of these is the best, or worst, for detecting colorectal cancer,” said Navkiran Shokar, MD, MPH, MA in a statement. “That could be a problem for patients who think they are all clear after getting false negative results. This is also why it is recommended to repeat the test every year.”

Using the funds, Dr. Shokar and her team will recruit men and women between the ages of 50 and 85 who are already scheduled for a colonoscopy. Each participant will be given 4 different FITs to use at home. The samples will then be mailed to the University of Iowa for analysis. For comparison, each participant will also subsequently complete a colonoscopy to definitively diagnose any colorectal cancer of polyps.

“Our number 1 goal is to identify which FIT test is the most accurate, but we are also hoping to build awareness about these newer, more convenient FIT tests and get more people screened for colorectal cancer,” said Shokar.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), about 42% of eligible adults are not up to date with their colorectal cancer screening.

An added incentive to partake in a FIT test, in addition to the convenience of completing it at home, is the price. According to Shokar, FIT tests usually run around $25. ACS and the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable have challenged the United States to have 80% of adults ages 50 and older screened for colon cancer.

“The only way to reach this goal is to offer less invasive and less expensive tests for those who do not want to undergo a colonscopy. FITs need to become mainstream for colorectal cancer screening in the US,” said Shokar.