“I think it’s essential that people keep signing up to these type of trials to push research forward.”
A trial to find out if the MMP9 test can be used as part of screening for bowel cancer
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This trial compared a blood test called MMP9 with a standard test used to diagnose bowel cancer (colorectal cancer). This trial was supported by Cancer Research UK.
The most accurate way to diagnose bowel cancer is to look inside the bowel using a special type of camera. You can have either a colonoscopy or a flexisigmoidoscopy (flexisig). Other tests include the faecal occult blood (FOB) test. These tests are good, but can be expensive. And some people find them unpleasant so don’t want to have them.
Researchers wanted to see if using a simple blood test to measure levels of an
The people taking part in this trial had both a colonoscopy and the MMP9 test, and the trial team compared the results.
The aim of the trial was to find out if the MMP9 test is as good as a colonoscopy for diagnosing bowel cancer.
Summary of results
The research team found that the MMP9 test was good, but not accurate enough to be used routinely to diagnose bowel cancer.
This trial recruited 748 people who had been having symptoms that could have been caused by bowel cancer. The symptoms included a change in bowel habit, blood in their stools, weight loss and tiredness.
Everyone taking part had both a colonoscopy and an MMP9 blood test. The colonoscopy results showed that
- 3 people had bowel cancer
- 43 people had polyps with a high risk of developing into bowel cancer
- 165 people had polyps with a low risk of developing into bowel cancer
Polyps are small non cancerous growths that can eventually develop into bowel cancer if they aren’t treated.
When the research team looked at the MMP9 test results, they found that it
- Correctly identified nearly 8 out of 10 people who had cancer or high risk polyps – doctors call this sensitivity
- Correctly identified 7 out of 10 people who didn’t have cancer or high risk polyps – doctors call this specificity
Although these results are good, MMP9 is not quite sensitive or specific enough to be used a test for bowel cancer. The research team suggest that it may help diagnose bowel cancer in the future as one of a group of tests, but that this would need further research.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Dr Sue Wilson
Cancer Research UK
National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network (NCRN)
This is Cancer Research UK trial number CRUK/05/038.