Biomarker Measurement in Non-Invasively Sampled Colorectal Mucus as a Novel Approach to Colorectal Cancer Detection: Screening and Triage Implications

Br J Cancer. 2020 May 13. doi: 10.1038/s41416-020-0893-8. Online ahead of print.


Background: Faecal tests are widely applied for colorectal cancer (CRC) screening and considered for triaging symptomatic patients with suspected CRC. However, faecal tests can be inconvenient, complex and expensive. Colorectal mucus (CM) sampled using our new patient-friendly non-invasive technique is rich in CRC biomarkers. This study aimed to evaluate diagnostic accuracy of CRC detection by measuring protein biomarkers in CM.

Methods: Colorectal mucus samples were provided by 35 healthy controls, 62 CRC-free symptomatic patients and 40 CRC patients. Biomarkers were quantified by ELISA. Diagnostic performances of haemoglobin, C-reactive protein, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-1, M2-pyruvate kinase, matrix metalloproteinase-9, peptidyl arginine deiminase-4, epidermal growth factor receptor, calprotectin and eosinophil-derived neurotoxin were assessed using receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis.

Results: Colorectal mucus haemoglobin was superior compared to other biomarkers. For haemoglobin, the areas under the curve for discriminating between CRC and healthy groups ('screening') and between CRC and symptomatic patients ('triage') were 0.921 and 0.854 respectively. The sensitivity of 80.0% and specificities of 94.3% and 85.5% for the two settings respectively were obtained.

Conclusions: Haemoglobin quantification in CM reliably detects CRC. This patient-friendly approach presents an attractive alternative to faecal immunochemical test; however, the two methods need to be directly compared in larger studies.

Grant support