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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2013 Sep;22(9):1567-76. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-13-0204. Epub 2013 Jun 24.

Colorectal cancer screening with blood-based biomarkers: cost-effectiveness of methylated septin 9 DNA versus current strategies.

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Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305-5187, USA.



Screening reduces colorectal cancer mortality, but many persons remain unscreened. Screening with a blood test could improve screening rates. We estimated the comparative effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of colorectal cancer screening with emerging biomarkers, illustrated by a methylated Septin 9 DNA plasma assay ((m)SEPT9), versus established strategies.


We conducted a cost-utility analysis using a validated decision analytic model comparing (m)SEPT9, fecal occult blood testing (FOBT), fecal immunochemical testing (FIT), sigmoidoscopy, and colonoscopy, projecting lifetime benefits and costs.


In the base case, (m)SEPT9 decreased colorectal cancer incidence by 35% to 41% and colorectal cancer mortality by 53% to 61% at costs of $8,400 to $11,500/quality-adjusted life year gained versus no screening. All established screening strategies were more effective than (m)SEPT9. FIT was cost saving, dominated (m)SEPT9, and was preferred among all the alternatives. Screening uptake and longitudinal adherence rates over time strongly influenced the comparisons between strategies. At the population level, (m)SEPT9 yielded incremental benefit at acceptable costs when it increased the fraction of the population screened more than it was substituted for other strategies.


(m)SEPT9 seems to be effective and cost-effective compared with no screening. To be cost-effective compared with established strategies, (m)SEPT9 or blood-based biomarkers with similar test performance characteristics would need to achieve substantially higher uptake and adherence rates than the alternatives. It remains to be proven whether colorectal cancer screening with a blood test can improve screening uptake or long-term adherence compared with established strategies.


Our study offers insights into the potential role of colorectal cancer screening with blood-based biomarkers.

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