Very promising results for Prof. Mazzone
CRC (colorectal cancer) is one of the most common cancer in Belgium and the second cause-cancer-related death. 8000 Belgians are diagnosed with CRC every year with 50% of mortality (Registre du Cancer, 2011).
By genome-wide expression analysis, the team of Prof. Mazzone (Lab of Molecular Oncology and Angiogenesis, VIB Vesalius Research Center, KU Leuven) unraveled a genetic fingerprint, which is induced specifically in circulating monocytes at early disease onset by soluble factors derived from transformed colon epithelium (in comparison to benign colon epithelium or other cancer histotypes). With the help of the Foundation Fournier-Majoie, this gene signature was validated in 206 multicentric samples and stayed robust over disease progression. Expression changes were however reversible upon curative treatment, as they relied on continuous presence of tumor-specific signals. These findings disclose a novel, non-invasive approach that uses monocytes for both diagnosis and disease follow-up of CRC.
Disease follow-up and relapse monitoring
The test will allow evaluation of the success of surgical treatment, relapse, follow-up and metastasis occurrence. Given the intrinsic nature of monocytes (highly versatile white blood cells), the expression levels of the biomarkers constituting the test revert back to normal in patients upon curative treatment. Conversely, the test does not lose specificity and sensitivity in patients with metachronous metastasis (metastatic relapse after primary tumour resection).
The test demonstrates higher sensitivity and specificity than other non-invasive tests (Se= 87,5%, Sp=93,8%) for early diagnosis of CCR. It will then allow clinicians and physicians to make better informed therapeutic decisions using a non-invasive method for the patient and will, this way, reduce the number of colonoscopies.
If CRC is detected at early stages, > 80% of patients can be cured by tumour resection (compared to 10% when the disease is detected at a later stage).
The new test might have high-potential for screening of CRC.
Screening has been shown to be effective in reducing CRC incidence and mortality. However, uptake of these CRC screening guidelines is not optimal. Only 1 on 5 physicians is estimated worldwide to follow them because of a lack of screening assay accuracy. Although testing for fecal occult blood has become an accepted non-invasive technique for CCR screening, the lack of sensitivity and specificity of this method remains a problem. Prof. Mazzone’s test is currently being tested in healthy volunteers; patients with hyperplastic (benign) polyps and patients with premalignant adenomatous polyps. Polyps, when detected early, can be removed before they might become malignant.
We are currently looking for an industry partner to enter the clinical validation study and to put this test on the market.