UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

Study Offers Hope of a Urine Test for Colorectal Cancer

A urine test could one day offer a cheaper, less invasive alternative to a colonoscopy for diagnosing and monitoring colorectal cancer, a new study suggests.

A team of researchers, including UNCG’s Wei Jia (Nurtrition), analyzed urine samples from 123 people – 60 with colon cancer and 63 without. They looked at about 500 different metabolites, the byproducts of the chemical reactions within the body, and found unusual levels of 16 in the samples from cancer patients.

“We believe these metabolites can be further developed as biomarkers to identify cancer as well as to evaluate the stage of the cancer, which could help guide treatment,” says Jia, co-director of UNCG’s Center for Research Excellence in Bioactive Food Components.

About 150,000 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer last year, according to estimates from the National Cancer Institute. The diseases killed roughly 50,000.

The study, part of a larger research project that started two years ago and continues today, is published in the Journal of Proteome Research. The researchers now are analyzing tissue from the cancerous tumors.

“We are profiling the metabolites within the tumor tissue,” Wei says. “Are they significantly different from the metabolites found in adjacent normal tissues? Are the changes consistent with what we’ve found in the urine and blood samples?”

The project included researchers from North Carolina and China. The North Carolina researchers are Jia; Yunping Qiu, a postdoctoral research fellow in Jia’s lab; and Mingming Su of the David H. Murdock Research Institute. The researchers based in China are Guoxiang Cai, Ye Xu and Sanjun Cai of Fudan University; and Tianlu Chen, Yumin Liu, Yan Ni, Aihua Zhao and Lisa X. Xu of Shanghair Jiao Tong University.

Jia became co-director of UNCG’s Center for Research Excellence in Bioactive Food Components in 2008. The center, a satellite of the UNCG Department of Nutrition, is based in Kannapolis at the North Carolina Research Campus.

His research also includes the identification and characterization of bioactive components from natural products and traditional Chinese medicine that can affect common metabolic diseases such as diabetes.

The North Carolina Research Campus is the brainchild of David H. Murdock, owner and chairman of Castle & Cooke and Dole Food Company. About 70 miles southwest of Greensboro, the public-private partnership is expected to eventually employ 5,000 researchers and create up to 30,000 jobs.