HudsonAlpha scientists find colon polyp markers

HudsonAlpha scientists find colon polyp markers
(Source: WAFF)
(Source: WAFF)
(Source: WAFF)

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Let's face it, no one enjoys having a colonoscopy, but it's necessary to screen for certain cancer. Exciting news out of HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville where scientists just developed a test that can detect polyps without the discomfort that may come with the procedure.

These researchers are looking at the liquid in our bloodstream to predict whether patients have polyps in their colon.

"Once they had the technology, they were able to screen several hundred blood samples in just a few months, spent a lot of time analyzing data to determine whether we really have a signature or not," said president and science director Rick Myers.

Scientists from HudsonAlpha took data from thousands of University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine patients. They measured the small RNA - short strands of ribonucleic acid - molecules floating in plasma.

"If you are higher for one, then you possibly have a colon polyp, if you are lower, then you possibly have a colon polyp, and we take both of those measurements and combine them mathematically to come up with a single score and that score relates to how likely you are to have a colon polyp," said senior scientist Brian Roberts.

According to the American Cancer Society, of the adults age 50 and older for whom physicians recommend a colonoscopy screening, only about 65 percent comply.

This study called Discovery and Validation of Circulating Biomarkers of Colorectal Adenoma by High-Depth Small RNA Sequencing is a first step in finding a noninvasive screening for colon cancer with a simple blood test.

"You can envision using it to screen people more easily and more commonly, and then people who get a positive result would go get a colonoscopy to then confirm that positive result," Roberts explained.

The study was very diverse with nearly equal numbers of men and women and 30 percent were African-American patients.

"So the results we found should reproduce in future studies that also include diverse sets of patients," Roberts added.

They still have a lot more work to do before the test will be used in clinics. The discovery is just the beginning and could also help detect other cancers and diseases like Alzheimer's.

"So we are currently trying to apply the same technologies to those with hope that we'll discover signatures in those diseases," Myers explained.

HudsonAlpha will continue its research and conduct clinical studies so it can obtain FDA approval. Once they perfect the test, the hope is it could be offered routinely.

Research in this study was funded by the state of Alabama, the Center for Clinical and Translational Science NIH grant of UAB and a generous donation from an anonymous private donor.

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