Quest Diagnostics Inc. (NYSE:DGX) introduced a new blood test with the potential to identify colorectal cancer by detecting chemical changes in specific strands of genetic material.
Quest Diagnostics plans to market its new ColoVantage test as a supplement to other screening tools such as colonoscopy and fecal occult blood tests. Company officials said in prepared remarks that while ColoVantage has not yet been clinically validated, they hope the relative ease of a blood test would convince individuals who previously have passed on more invasive tests to be screened.
“Early detection rates are dismally low, largely because many patients find existing tests and procedures invasive or unpleasant,” Quest chief medical officer Jon Cohen said. “ColoVantage … may promote further evaluation in patients who have resisted testing in the past or as an adjunct to existing procedures.”
Specifically, the new test is designed to find changes in the Septin9 gene, a biomarker first identified for its strong association to colorectal cancer by a German biotech, Epigenomics AP. Quest secured an non-exclusive license in February 2008 to the Septin9 technology from Epigenomics, which will receive royalty payments on Quest sales of the Septin9-based test on top of previous upfront and milestone payments from Quest.
The market for colorectal cancer screening is already filling up quickly with competitors. A North Carolinia-based startup, OncoMethylome Sciences Inc., reportedly may soon start enrolling patients for an upcoming trial for a similar blood test while Exact Sciences Corp. (NASQ:EXAS) in Madison, Wis., is working to develop an early-stage test for colorectal cancer by identifying specific DNA strains in patient stool samples.
Quest has marketed InSure, a FDA-cleared fecal immunochemical test for colorectal cancer, for several years.