The 2009 Digestive Disease Week in Chicago presented numerous findings with regard to the GI tract and associated diseases. Among those findings is the usefulness of DNA testing of stool samples for the presence of cancer.

Previously, stool DNA testing was used for the early detection of colorectal cancer; recently scientists and physicians have discovered this screening is also a useful source of detection for other cancers such as pancreas, stomach, bile ducts and esophagus. This is a tremendous shift from the single organ approach to screening of such cancers. DNA sampling provides a “whole-body” approach to screening for multiple cancers at one time, potentially paving the way for early detection of cancers previously not screened.

According to ABC News, “The test developed by Mayo Clinic researchers, which checked a patient’s stool for the DNA of cells regularly shed from the surface of several types of tumors, detected 65 percent of esophageal cancers, 62 percent of pancreatic cancers, 75 percent of bile duct and gallbladder cancers and 100 percent of stomach and colorectal cancers. The test was equally successful at detecting early-stage and late-stage cancers.”

The report goes on to note, “One in four cancer deaths are the result of gastrointestinal cancers, the news release notes. These cancers are quite curable if detected at an early stage, but the only one widely tested for is colorectal cancer, generally through colonoscopy.”

Research and news with regard to GI disease continues to move in a positive direction.