Background: Detection of fecal DNA is a promising approach to colorectal cancer screening. However, the sensitivity of current fecal DNA tests for colorectal polyps is low. We evaluated the feasibility of detecting aberrantly methylated DNA or cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) mRNA in feces of patients with colorectal cancer or polyps.
Methods: Fecal samples were collected prior to colonoscopy from 20 patients with colorectal cancer, 30 patients with colorectal polyps, and 30 subjects with normal colonic examination. Presence of hypermethylated DNA in 7 tumor-related genes (APC, ATM, hMLH1, sFRP2, HLTF, MGMT, and GSTP1) in stool was analyzed by methylation-specific PCR. COX-2 mRNA in fecal samples was detected by RT-PCR.
Results: With the use of this panel of methylation markers, the sensitivity of detecting colorectal cancer and adenoma was 75% (95% CI 50.9-91.3%) and 68% (95% CI 46.5-85.1%), respectively. Three normal subjects also had methylated DNA detected in stool, which gives a specificity of 90% (95% CI 73.5-97.9%). The mean number of genes methylated in DNA from the stool of patients with colorectal cancer and adenoma was 1.4 and 0.9, respectively. In contrast, COX-2 mRNA was detected in the stool samples of 10 (50%) cancer patients and one (4%) patient with advanced adenoma only. Two (6.7%) stool samples from normal subjects also had COX-2 mRNA detected.
Conclusion: Detection of aberrantly methylated DNA in fecal samples is more sensitive than COX-2 mRNA for detection of colorectal cancer and adenoma.