A recent study conducted by the Regenstrief Institute and led by Research Scientist Thomas F. Imperiale, M.D., suggests that a three-year interval between non-invasive multi-target stool DNA tests is clinically appropriate for colorectal cancer screening in individuals at average risk. This conclusion was drawn after no colorectal cancers were detected three years following an initial negative multi-target stool DNA test. The study involved repeating the stool DNA test at the three-year mark, with results confirmed via colonoscopy.
Despite no cancers being found at the three-year interval, the study identified 63 advanced precancerous lesions among the 591 participants. This finding indicates that while the test is designed to target cancer and high-risk precancerous polyps, some lesions found at three years may have progressed since the previous screening.
The study provides evidence-based information for adults within the screening age range and their clinicians about the frequency of multi-target stool DNA screening. However, the pandemic’s impact on healthcare appointments led to a reduction in participant numbers over the three years, suggesting further research is needed to confirm the optimal test interval. A previous study by Dr. Imperiale published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2014 reported that multi-target stool DNA testing detects 92.3 percent of colon cancers.
This research emphasizes the importance of at-home tests like multi-target stool DNA or the less sensitive annual fecal immunochemical test (FIT) in efficiently screening the population, especially those at the lower risk end of the average risk spectrum. The study’s findings are significant in the context of recent guidelines that lowered the recommended age to begin screening for colon cancer from 50 to 45. The study was funded by Exact Sciences Corporation, the manufacturer of the multi-target stool DNA screening test.