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Researchers from two CCTS Partner Network institutions—HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology (HA) and UAB—recently announced they have developed a test that can identify people with colon polyps. The blood serum test, which detects changes in RNA molecules associated with colorectal adenomas, could replace the discomfort of routine colonoscopies (most especially their prep) and increase the number of adults 50 or older who get screened as recommended by the American Cancer Society.

The study, which was published in Clinical Cancer Research, applied high-depth small RNA sequencing to plasma from a large (n=189) cohort of patients, balanced for age, sex, and ancestry. The team, which included CCTS HA Site Lead Dr. Richard Myers and CCTS Director Dr. Robert Kimberly, replicated sequencing results on plasma samples from an independent cohort (n=140). The test accurately detected adenomas in patients under 50 and worked well regardless of sex or ancestry.

Although more work is needed before patients might expect to request the blood test over a routine colonoscopy, the HA-UAB research team is optimistic that blood-based screening will become a reality for detecting colon polyps and, eventually, for detecting colon cancer as well.

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