BACKGROUND: The clinical benefit of guaiac fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) is now well established for colorectal cancer screening. Growing evidence has demonstrated that epigenetic modifications and fecal microbiota changes, also known as dysbiosis, are associated with CRC pathogenesis and might be used as surrogate markers of CRC.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: We performed a cross-sectional study that included all consecutive subjects that were referred (from 2003 to 2007) for screening colonoscopies. Prior to colonoscopy, effluents (fresh stools, sera-S and urine-U) were harvested and FOBTs performed. Methylation levels were measured in stools, S and U for 3 genes (Wif1, ALX-4, and Vimentin) selected from a panel of 63 genes; Kras mutations and seven dominant and subdominant bacterial populations in stools were quantified. Calibration was assessed with the Hosmer-Lemeshow chi-square, and discrimination was determined by calculating the C-statistic (Area Under Curve) and Net Reclassification Improvement index.
RESULTS: There were 247 individuals (mean age 60.8±12.4 years, 52% of males) in the study group, and 90 (36%) of these individuals were patients with advanced polyps or invasive adenocarcinomas. A multivariate model adjusted for age and FOBT led to a C-statistic of 0.83 [0.77-0.88]. After supplementary sequential (one-by-one) adjustment, Wif-1 methylation (S or U) and fecal microbiota dysbiosis led to increases of the C-statistic to 0.90 [0.84-0.94] (p = 0.02) and 0.81 [0.74-0.86] (p = 0.49), respectively. When adjusted jointly for FOBT and Wif-1 methylation or fecal microbiota dysbiosis, the increase of the C-statistic was even more significant (0.91 and 0.85, p<0.001 and p = 0.10, respectively).
CONCLUSION: The detection of methylated Wif-1 in either S or U has a higher performance accuracy compared to guaiac FOBT for advanced colorectal neoplasia screening. Conversely, fecal microbiota dysbiosis detection was not more accurate. Blood and urine testing could be used in those individuals reluctant to undergo stool testing.