New Pill May Screen for Colon Cancer
Early Colon Imaging Capsule Results ‘Encouraging’
May 22, 2007 -- In the future, getting screened for colon cancer may be as
simple as taking a pill.
Researchers say they are encouraged by early results from an ongoing study
comparing a pill-delivered imaging device with colonoscopy for detection of
colon polyps and colon cancer screening. Colon polyps are growths that can
Similar imaging devices, called PillCams, are already being used to screen
for esophageal and small intestine disease.
But it is not yet clear if the same technology will prove to be a useful
tool for colon cancer screening.
The camera ‘pill’, which is the size of a large multivitamin, travels though
the body capturing images along the way -- at a speed of four images per second
in the case of the colon cam.
Pill-based endoscopy requires at least as much prep to clean out the colon
as is needed with colonoscopy, but the actual test involves little more from
the patient than swallowing a pill.
Not as Accurate as Colonoscopy
Interim findings from an ongoing European trial with a target of 329
patients were presented Tuesday in Washington at an international meeting of
digestive disease specialists.
Researcher Jacques Deviere, MD, of Brussel’s Erasme University Hospital
reported on results from 84 patients who had the capsule imaging procedure
followed by colonoscopy screening.
Standard preparation techniques for colonoscopy screening resulted in
excellent to good imaging with the ingestible endoscopy technique in two-thirds
of patients and fair to poor imaging in the remaining third.
The PillCam did not detect as many polyps as colonoscopy, but Deviere and
colleagues concluded that it is accurate enough to be a useful tool for colon
A spokesman for the Israeli company that makes the pill camera, Given
Imaging Ltd, tells WebMD that the goal is not to replace colonoscopy, but to
offer an alternative to patients who are unable or unwilling to undergo the
“It is not quite as good as colonoscopy, but it is much easier on the
patient,” says Mark Gilreath. “There is no sedation and no
Gilreath says the company hopes to win approval to sell the colon imaging
device in the United States by the end of the year.
Many Patients May Need Both Tests
Philadelphia gastroenterologist and Gregory Ginsberg, MD, calls the concept
of wireless capsule-delivered colon screening “compelling,” but he remains
skeptical about the potential impact of the imaging technique.
“I am not optimistic that this will play a significant medical role,” he
Unlike colonoscopy, which can both find and remove suspicious polyps or
abnormalities for biopsy, the colon pill camera’s only role is detection.
That means patients with suspicious areas detected with the camera device
will end up having both procedures, each requiring time-consuming and
uncomfortable prep to cleanse the colon.
About 30% of patients who undergo colonoscopy screenings have polyps that
require biopsy, Ginsberg says. He is director of endoscopic services at the
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
“Theoretically, this could help us identify people who do and do not need
[colonoscopy] screening, but there are many unanswered questions,” he says.