Performance of the colorectal cancer screening marker Sept9 is influenced by age, diabetes and arthritis: a nested case-control study

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Background Annually, colorectal cancer (CRC) is diagnosed in >1.4 million subjects worldwide and incidence is increasing. Much effort has therefore been focused on screening, which has proven to reduce cancer-related mortality. The Sept9 DNA-methylation assay is among the most well studied blood-based screening markers. However, earlier reported performances may be misleading: the Sept9 test was recently examined in two screening based cohorts and yielded performances lower than expected. We hypothesize that comorbidities and/or demographic characteristics affect the results of the Sept9 test. Methods Using a retrospective nested case–control study design, we studied plasma from 150 cancer and 150 controls selected from a well-characterized cohort of 4698 subjects referred for diagnostic colonoscopy due to CRC-related symptoms. The cases and controls were matched on age and gender, and moreover cases were stratified on tumor-site and tumor-stage. The selected cohort included a wide range of comorbidities. Plasma Sept9 levels were assessed using a commercially available PCR based assay (Epi-proColon). Results Clinical sensitivity for CRC stages I-IV was 37 %, 91 %, 77 %, and 89 %, and the overall sensitivity 73 % (95 % CI, 64–80 %) and specificity 82 % (95 % CI, 75–88 %), respectively. Age >65 was associated with both increased false positive and false negative results (p < 0.05). Arthritis was associated with a higher false negative rate (p = 0.005) whereas Arteriosclerosis was associated with a higher false positive rate (p = 0.007). Diabetes was associated with Sept9 positivity with an OR of 5.2 (95 % CI 1.4–19.1). When the performance of Sept9 was adjusted for these parameters in a final multivariate regression model, the OR for a positive Sept9 test to be associated with CRC increased from 8.25 (95 % CI 4.83–14.09) to 29.46 (95 % CI 12.58–69.02). Conclusions The results indicate that the performance of the Sept9 assay is negatively affected by several factors commonly associated with CRC screening populations: early-stage disease, age > 65 years, diabetes, arthritis, and arteriosclerosis. This should be taken into account if the Sept9 assay is used as a single marker for CRC screening, but may also have a wider impact, as it is likely that such factors may affect other blood based DNA markers as well.
TidsskriftBMC Cancer
Sider (fra-til)1-10
Antal sider10
StatusUdgivet - 29 okt. 2015


  • cfDNA, epigenetics, colorectal cancer

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