Colon cancer blood test hits the market

November 6, 2012

By Scott Larson, The StarPhoenix

Eight years of research and testing are coming to fruition for Saskatoon-based Phenomenome Discoveries Inc. (PDI) with the launch of its groundbreaking colorectal cancer screening test.

The test is a simple blood test that screens for colon cancer, with no advance preparation or stool-based sample required.

It has been licensed to CML HealthCare Inc. (CML), which has launched the test under the market name Cologic.

CML has the right to sell the test across Canada, except in Saskatchewan.

“We went out and looked for commercialization partners, and in Canada we developed a relationship with CML,” said Alix Hayden, PDI’s director of operations.

The Cologic test is initially available in Ontario and Hayden said it will be rolled out across the country.

PDI has provided the right to use the tests to the province of Saskatchewan, she said, but added, “to my knowledge it is not available at this time.”

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in Canada and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in Canadians, resulting in more than 9,000 deaths annually. Regular screening can result in early detection that saves lives and health-care treatment dollars.

Cologic requires a small sample of blood to test for specific chemicals that are known to be at lower levels when people are at risk for colorectal cancer.

As a simple blood test, it can be performed with ease and speed, often at the same time as other routine blood tests.

Hayden said PDI began working on this idea about eight years ago.

“It was the discovery of completely novel biochemi-cals that have never been seen before in nature,” she said. “It turns out these are biochemicals that are in the blood of healthy folks and they are absent, or very low, in the blood of people with colorectal cancer.”

Hayden said the test isn’t intended to be a diagnostic stand-alone.

“It would at least be an alternative to stool testing for doctors and patients to explore,” she said.

“It allows the health-care system to say, ‘OK, here are the people we really need to focus on.”

Hayden said PDI has also signed a deal with an American company, Polymedco, and is pursuing partners elsewhere around the world.

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