The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Cologuard, the first stool-based colorectal screening test that detects the presence of red blood cells and DNA mutations that may indicate the presence of certain kinds of abnormal growths that may be cancers such as colon cancer or precursors to cancer.
Using a stool sample, Cologuard detects hemoglobin, a protein molecule that is a component of blood. Cologuard also detects certain mutations associated with colorectal cancer in the DNA of cells shed by advanced adenomas as stool moves through the large intestine and rectum. Patients with positive test results are advised to undergo a diagnostic colonoscopy.
“This approval offers patients and physicians another option to screen for colorectal cancer,” said Alberto Gutierrez, Ph.D., director of the Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Fecal blood testing is a well-established screening tool and the clinical data showed that the test detected more cancers than a commonly used fecal occult test.”
Colorectal cancer primarily affects people age 50 and older, and among cancers that affect both men and women, it is the third most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC estimates that if everyone age 50 or older had regular screening tests as recommended, at least 60 percent of colorectal cancer deaths could be avoided.
Today’s approval of the Cologuard does not change current practice guidelines for colorectal cancer screening, however. Stool DNA testing (also called “fecal DNA testing”) is not currently recommended as a method to screen for colorectal cancer by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Read the full FDA press release