St. LOUIS, Mo. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Research shows that colonoscopies save lives, often catching and removing polyps before they can turn into cancer. But as many as one in three adults over 50 skip the screening. However, a 26-year old Washington University of St. Louis med student has designed and produced a non-invasive test for colorectal cancer that she hopes takes away the fear factor.
When she turned 50, Patricia Kamler celebrated the milestone, and then prepared herself for a dreaded rite of passage, a colonoscopy.
“It’s like you’re gonna do what to me … how?,” Kamler told Ivanhoe.
Colonoscopy is the gold standard for detection, but the thought of having a tube passed through the intestines drives many people away from colorectal cancer screening.
Erica Barnell, a medical student at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, explained, “CRC grows very slowly. So it’s not that this is this aggressive tumor and we don’t have good therapies. We are just not catching it early enough.”
Twenty-six year old Barnell is working to change that. This third-year med student is also earning her Ph.D. in genomics.
“I said we’re looking at biomarkers and stool samples. Why can’t we do the same thing for colorectal cancer to replace colonoscopies?,” detailed Barnell.
The result: a home-testing kit called Geneoscopy.
Barnell explained, “In the privacy of your own home, you can deposit a stool sample in the kit and ship to our labs. We can extract the biomarkers and analyze them.”
The lab results tell patients their relative risk for having a pre-cancerous change, or cancer itself; potentially eliminating the need for unnecessary colonoscopies. Barnell and her three-person team are all under age 30. She said despite their success, some see youth as a drawback. She said it’s an advantage.
“We kinda go into everything with high energy; high level of spirit. You can just have an idea and push it forward and be passionate about it. That’s what makes an idea move forward,” Barnell told Ivanhoe.
From idea to product, that might just save lives.
Barnell and the Geneoscopy team have applied for a provisional patent for the test. The results of a small pilot study showed it was highly accurate. The team was recently awarded a $60,000 grant to conduct a 400 person validation study, which is currently ongoing.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Brent Sucher, Videographer.