A home DNA testing kit set to be made available in the UAE could boost early detection rates for one of the most deadly but treatable types of cancer.
Scientists have developed a home stool test to detect early signs of colorectal cancer. The test uses technology similar to that of a Covid-19 PCR test.
German company Mainz Biomed said its ColoAlert test had a sensitivity and specificity rate comparable to a colonoscopy carried out as a hospital.
A clinical test in Germany found that ColoAlert has a sensitivity rate of 85 per cent and specificity rate of 92 per cent.
Figures from the International Agency for Research on Cancer at the World Health Organisation showed colorectal cancer was the second most common type in 2020, accounting for 10.6 per cent of all cases in the UAE.
Doctors suggest an at-home test would encourage more people to perform checks on themselves to catch initial signs of colorectal cancer and seek earlier treatment that would lead to better survival rates.
Kits will be made available through the Dante Labs Genomics e-commerce site in Silicon Oasis in Dubai from June 8, with customers able to purchase tests online and samples collected and results returned within days.
Early detection boosts survival rates
“Patients diagnosed at a localised stage have a much higher survival rate compared with those who have metastatic spread of advanced cancer at the time of diagnosis,” said Dr Mahesh Rama Varma, a gastroenterologist at NMC Royal Hospital in Dubai.
“Early detection is the key to the prevention of advanced cancers.
“Types of tests for colorectal cancer screening include stool-based testing to detect either haemoglobin in the blood that may be coming from a lesion or DNA alterations suggestive of malignancy.
“Then there are the so called invasive tests, a colonoscopy or capsule endoscopy.
“The latter two carry a burden on healthcare costs and hence the testing of stools for either the stool occult blood or the stool DNA analysis for abnormal cells have relevance.”
Regular screenings key to cancer fight
Colorectal cancer is the second most deadly cancer in the US and Europe, but also one of the most preventable. Early detection can lead to survival rates of more than 90 per cent.
Early indicators can be blood in a person's stool, persistent changes to bowel habits and stomach cramps.
Annual testing costs for a patient are minimal, especially when compared with late-stage treatments that can cost an average of $38,469 a year, the American Cancer Society said.
Screening of stool samples is recommended every three years, from the age of 45.
Although Dr Varma said existing faecal immunochemical testing (FIT) was generally positive, patients often required a colonoscopy to confirm results.
By comparison, a DNA test that looks for abnormal cell characteristics was 92 per cent accurate in detecting cancer, compared with about 74 per cent for a standard FIT.
“FIT is convenient for a patient to do,” said Dr Varma.
“Dietary and medication restrictions are not needed. It does not require bowel preparation, sedation, or time away from work or family.
“But a stool DNA test such as the ColoAlert in the UAE is a very efficient form of screening, taking into consideration cost effectiveness and better sensitivity.”
Genetic testing of biomarkers in saliva, stools and other body tissues for illness and disease is a rapidly evolving area of medicine.
It can help in the early detection of autoimmune diseases, neurodegenerative or metabolic disease, and some mental health conditions.
Results from clinical trials of ColoAlert have been submitted for approval by the US Food and Drug Administration, but the test has already received regulatory backing in Europe and the UAE.
Mainz Biomed worked with Dante Labs, a company specialising in precision medicine, to develop the testing kits in Italy and the UAE.
Dante Labs has been a popular provider of travel tests for Covid-19 during the pandemic.
Samples will initially be processed at Mainz’s in-house centre and then Dante will purchase Mainz’s PCR assay kits and move all UAE test processing to labs in Dubai.
“Our goal is to bring to the market important diagnostic tools to help treat and prevent cancer indications,” said Guido Baechler, chief executive of Mainz Biomed.
“Our differentiated commercial plan of partnering with third-party laboratories for test kit processing versus the traditional methodology of operating a single facility requires alliances with like-minded companies such as Dante Labs.
"They share our passion for forward-thinking diagnostic test development and marketing strategies.”