Background & aims: Current stool DNA tests identify about half of individuals with colorectal cancers and miss most individuals with advanced adenomas. We developed a digital melt curve (DMC) assay to quantify low-abundance mutations in stool samples for detection of colorectal neoplasms and compared this test with other approaches.
Methods: We combined a melt curve assay with digital polymerase chain reaction and validated the quantitative range. We then evaluated its ability to detect neoplasms in 2 clinical studies. In study I, stool samples from patients with colorectal tumors with known mutations (KRAS, APC, BRAF, TP53) were assayed. In study II, archived stool samples from patients with advanced adenomas containing known KRAS mutations were assayed, along with controls. Results were compared with those from the stool DNA test PreGenPlus (Exact Sciences, Marlborough, MA), Hemoccult, and HemoccultSensa (both Beckman-Coulter, Fullerton, CA).
Results: The DMC assay detected samples in which only 0.1% of target genes were mutated. In study I, the DMC assay detected known mutations in 28 (90%) of 31 tumor samples and 6 (75%) of 8 advanced adenoma samples. In study II, the DMC assay detected 16 (59%) of 27 advanced adenoma samples that contained KRAS mutations, compared with 7% with the Hemoccult, 15% with the HemoccultSensa, and 26% with the PreGenPlus assays (P < .05 for each, compared with the DMC assay); specificities did not differ significantly.
Conclusions: The DMC assay has a high level of sensitivity in detecting individuals with colon neoplasms and is better than current stool screening methods in detecting those with advanced adenomas. Further studies are indicated.