(RxWiki News) Metabolomics is the science of examining the waste products of cells. In other words, it looks at the end products of cell metabolism.
This approach has been successful in using a urine sample to correctly identify what scientists are calling the "fingerprint" of precancerous colon polyps.
The test also reverts back to a normal reading after the polyp has been removed.
"Find out about all the colon cancer screening methods."
Researchers from the University of Alberta, led by Richard N. Fedorak, MD, evaluated 1,200 patients who had used this urine-based metabolomic test for polyps.
Participants were screened for polyps using a colonoscopy, a fecal sample and this metabolomic test.
Previous studies showed that the test correctly detected 70-80 out of 100 pre-cancerous polyps, which doctors call adenomatous polyps.
Building on this study, researchers then looked at 243 patients who had polyps detected and removed during a colonoscopy. Before the procedure, a single spot urine sample was collected from each participant.
One to three years after polyp removal, 139 individuals provided a second spot urine test to compare with the original results.
The study wanted to see if the abnormal fingerprint profile seen in patients with pre-cancerous polyps would revert to normal after the polyp had been taken out.
“The answer to the objective was yes — the diagnostic test that once said you had a colonic adenomatous polyp now said you don’t, or in other words, this highly accurate urine test tells you when you have a polyp and then when it’s removed, the urine test will return back to normal because the polyp is gone,” said Dr. Fedorak.
He went on to say that the test is less accurate in people with uncontrolled diabetes or kidney problems. For everyone else, the test should be much more accurate, according to Dr. Fedorak.
Researchers found that not only were the urine samples easier to obtain, patients preferred the method over fecal tests currently used.
“This would be a great improvement for population-based colon cancer screening programs around the world,” Dr. Fedorak said.
He and his team are in the midst of a similar clinical trial in China.
This test currently costs between $50 - $100, compared to a fecal test which runs $15 - $25. The cost of the metabolomic test is expected to go down when it's perfected and produced in larger quantities.
This study was funded by the Center of Excellence for Gastrointestinal Inflammation and Immunity Research at the University of Alberta.
Findings from the research were presented at the Digestive Disease Week 2012 conference.
All such findings are considered preliminary before publication in a peer-reviewed journal. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.