A gene that is frequently switched off in colorectal cancer cells seems to help the cancer but may also make it easy to detect, scientists say. Conveniently, the modification that silences the NDRG4 gene can often be spotted in stool samples, providing an inexpensive test, the researchers report in the July 1 Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
What’s more, the molecular change sometimes shows up in growths called polyps, which can be precancerous. If further research shows that the genetic aberration in polyps is also detectable in stool samples, doctors might one day be able to screen vast numbers of people for colorectal cancer risk before resorting to more expensive colonoscopies, says study coauthor Manon van Engeland, a molecular biologist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.
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