Look to Exact Sciences, Not Radient Pharma, for Best Colon Cancer Screen Test

TUSTIN, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- Radient Pharmaceuticals' ( RXPC) Onko-Sure does a lousy job of detecting early-stage colon cancer. How bad? Well, let's just say that a coin flip would be more accurate.

Newly released performance data reveals that the Onko-Sure blood test, when combined with an older blood test, successfully detected the presence of early (stage 1) colon cancer in 48% of positive samples tested.

"Highly promising" is how Radient described the new Onko-Sure data in a statement released Monday. Patients and doctors interested in catching colon cancer early so that it can be more easily treated and cured will surely disagree.

The most desirable time to detect cancer in the colon is before fast-growing cells become malignant. Exact Sciences ( EXAS) is developing a test that detects genetic abnormalities in stool samples. In preliminary studies to date, Exact's Cologuard has been able to successfully detect pre-cancerous lesions in 59% of samples tested. The same Cologuard test has been able to detect 100% of stage 1 colon cancer and 96% for colon cancer in stages I-III combined.

Those are data that I'd rightfully call "highly promising."

By comparison, the combination of Radient's Onko-Sure plus the older blood test managed a sensitivity, or positive detection rate, of just 58% for all four stages of colon cancer. The tests also had a 40% false positive rate, which means they detected the presence of colon cancer in samples where no cancer actually existed.

The new Onko-Sure screening data were made public at last week's American Society of Clinical Oncology's Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium. The results come from the so-called "Mayo Clinic" study, which Radient conducted after buying colon cancer samples from a subsidiary of the Mayo Clinic. Last year, Radient tried to mislead investors into believing that it was working in partnership with Mayo on the Onko-Sure test.

Radient past public statements about findings from the Onko-Sure colon-cancer screening study don't accurately describe the actual data released last week.

Radient markets Onko-Sure today as a test used by doctors to detect when colon cancer recurs in patients after treatment. The commercial opportunity for cancer recurrence tests is small and Radient has done a very poor job of selling Onko-Sure, evidenced by the company's dearth of revenue and a balance sheet which makes Greece look like a European economic giant.

Developing a non-invasive test to effectively screen large swaths of people for early stage colon cancer -- or better yet, to detect pre-cancerous lesions -- is a blockbuster commercial opportunity. Currently available colon cancer screening tests can't reliably detect the cancer at early stages, which means patients at risk must undergo expensive and invasive colonoscopies. Good screening tests won't eliminate the need for colonoscopies, but they could cut down on the number of the invasive tests performed, which would save the healthcare system considerable money. Most important for patients, early-stage colon cancer can be cured.

Radient would obviously like to see Onko-Sure used one day as an early-stage colon cancer-screening test, but that's not going to happen with data showing the test's detection success rate falling below 50%.

--Written by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.

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Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet. In keeping with company editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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