A highly sensitive method that can detect even the earlier stages of colorectal cancer has been developed by researchers in Japan. Shimadzu Corporation, the Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine, and the National Cancer Center in Japan have collaborated to develop a new screening method that comprehensively analyzes the metabolites in our blood. The results of this research were published in the online edition of Oncotarget, a U.S. scientific publication, on February 4, 2017.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer death, and cases of this cancer are increasing in developed countries. In 2012, a group headed by Associate Professor YOSHIDA Masaru at Kobe University used gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and clinical metabolomic analysis methods to analyze serum samples from colorectal cancer patients and healthy subjects. The group succeeded in identifying four metabolite markers that can be used to diagnose colorectal cancer and developed a highly reliable diagnostic prediction model using those markers. This model was considered to be more practical in comparison with existing tumor markers, but it lacked sensitivity and specificity when actually used as a screening method.

Following this, a research team combining members from Shimadzu Corporation and Kobe University developed an analytical approach that enabled much more accurate measurement of metabolites in blood plasma. To achieve this, they used high-speed and high-sensitivity GC-MS/MS, which relies on Shimadzu's Advanced Scanning Speed Protocol (ASSP) and Smart MRM technologies.

By using this approach to analyze a large number of samples (at least 600) with known clinical data stored at the National Cancer Center, they were able to develop a high-performance screening method. After reviewing the results of comprehensive analyses of the metabolites contained in blood plasma from colorectal cancer patients and healthy subjects, they discovered eight multi-biomarkers that can be used to diagnose colorectal cancer.

Based on the data for these eight metabolites, they were able to create a diagnostic prediction model for colorectal cancer that exceeded 96% for both sensitivity and specificity. They also confirmed that the sensitivity of this new model remained at high levels even with early-stage colorectal cancer patients (stage 0 and stage I).

This research was conducted with support by the following grant program of the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED): Medical Research and Development Programs Focused on Technology Transfer (SENTAN) (Development theme: Practical implementation of a fully automatic screening system for very early stage diagnosis of colorectal cancer)Team leader: Noriyuki Ojima, Manager of Analytical & Measuring Instruments Division, Shimadzu CorporationSub-leader: Masaru Yoshida, Associate Professor, Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine

  • Selected in FY 2013 by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) as a JST-SENTAN Program (Development of Advanced Measurement and Analysis Systems), and transferred to an AMED program in April 2015.

Journal information

Investigations in the possibility of early detection of colorectal cancer by gas chromatography/triple-quadrupole mass spectrometry
Shin Nishiumi*, Takashi Kobayashi*, Shuichi Kawana, Yumi Unno, Takero Sakai, Koji Okamoto, Yasuhide Yamada, Kazuki Sudo, Taiki Yamaji, Yutaka Saito, Yukihide Kanemitsu, Natsuko Tsuda Okita, Hiroshi Saito, Shoichiro Tsugane, Takeshi Azuma, Noriyuki Ojima, Masaru Yoshida
(* contributed equally to this study and shared authorship)
Oncotarget, Advanced Publications 2017