Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
February 21, 2024

Colon cancer test research provides invasive surgery alternatives

By Heather Barbakoff | March 12, 2008

Getting screened for colon cancer may become as easy as swallowing a pill. The PillCam is a small camera contained within a pill-like capsule, and it recently became available for patients in both Europe and Israel.

The camera-pill will pass through the swallower's digestive track, taking four images per second, which are then sent to a data recorder, which the patient wears around the waist.

This system seems to be safer than the virtual colonscopy because there is no exposure to radiation. Given Imaging Ltd., the company manufacturing the device, had its application for marketing in the United States turned down by the Food and Drug Administration.

Hopkins researchers are in the process of developing a blood test that can screen the colon for cancerous cells. Researchers claim that the test can be available in as little as two or three years.

Robert Getzenberg is a Hopkins cancer researcher investigating multiple proteins in the blood that serve as telltale signs of abnormal growth.

An escalated level of a particular protein appears to match with that of a developing growth called a polyp.

Patients with higher levels of this protein could be monitored to ensure that everything is all right, while those with the highest levels could be further tested with a colonoscopy.

Bert Vogelstein, another cancer researcher at Hopkins, is looking at how DNA mutations which can be identified in blood samples could become a way to screen for colon cancer and other abnormalities.

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