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Glowing poop will identify cancer, Canadian researchers hope

Written by:  

Kevin Connor, QMI Agency

 
Sep. 5, 2014

Glowing poop will identify cancer, Canadian researchers hope (Fotolia)


 

TORONTO — Researchers believe they have the poop on a non-invasive stool test for colorectal cancer.

Two doctors at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., working with the Canadian Cancer Society are investigating using fluorescent enzymes to test for cancer markers in a person's stool sample. If cancer is present the molecules will glow, which could lead to early patient treatments. Dr. Yingfu Li, a biochemist, and Dr. Bruno Salena, a gastroenterologist, thought of this radical and novel idea during a round of golf. Li studies fluorescent DNAzymes and Salena treats patients with colorectal cancer.

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"We got talking about the fluorescent enzymes and the possibilities for early detection of cancer and I got quite excited," Salena said. "I looked at Dr. Li's data and I loved it. I thought this is something new we can try."

The two doctors applied and convinced the Canadian Cancer Society Innovative Grant program to provide $200,000 in funding for a two-year study.

"The Innovation Grants program is perfect for this type of research," Li said. "There are no other grant programs in Canada that support unconventional approaches like this."

The first step is to create a DNA pool that contains as many as a quadrillion different DNA sequences. Then the search is on to look for DNAzymes that will glow in stool samples from people diagnosed with colorectal cancer, but will remain muted in samples from healthy participants. If the research is successful, doctors could use this test in their office for colorectal cancer and even start testing urine for kidney and bladder cancers.

Although colorectal cancer is 90% treatable, it is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Canada.

kevin.connor@sunmedia.ca

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