Detection of Chitinase 3-Like 1 in Symptomatic Primary Care Patient Faecal Samples is Not a Reliable Biomarker of Colonic Lesions

Document Type : Research Articles


1 Department of Surgery, University of Otago Christchurch, New Zealand.

2 Hematology Research Group, Christchurch Hospital and Department of Pathology and Biomedical Science, University of Otago Christchurch, New Zealand.


Background: The current gold standard non-invasive test for detecting pre-cancerous changes is the faecal immunochemical test (FIT). However, this test can lack sensitivity and specificity and testing for another biomarker may address these limitations. Chitinase 3-like 1 (CHI3L1) is emerging as a potential biomarker of inflammation-associated carcinogenic changes in epithelial cells.  In this study CHI3L1 levels were analysed in patients and controls to determine their ability to improve detection of early CRC either alone or in combination with a FIT. Methods: CHI3L1 levels were measured by ELISA in serum and stool samples from cohorts of CRC and healthy donors as well as stool samples from a cohort of symptomatic primary care patients. Faecal haemoglobin was also analysed in the same primary care samples using FIT. Results: CHI3L1 levels were a good discriminatory marker of CRC, with no significant difference between levels detected in the stool and serum samples.  ROC curves that determined the optimal cut-point however identified that stool samples gave higher sensitivity (83% versus 69%) and specificity (89% versus 74%) than matched serum samples. Faecal CHI3L1 levels in the primary care patients were not significantly different (p=0.193) from those detected in the healthy controls. ROC curve analysis confirmed that faecal CHI3L1 levels had limited ability to discriminate between patients who did or didn’t have evidence of lesions (AUC=0.52, p=0.74). Similarly, CHI3L1 levels did not reliably identify those symptomatic primary care patients who subsequently presented with early-stage disease (polyps and adenomas) or CRC. The discriminatory power of FIT was not increased by incorporating the CHI3L1 results in this setting. Conclusion: There was no evidence that measurement of faecal CHI3L1 has the potential to increase diagnostic accuracy, either alone or in combination with a FIT, in symptomatic primary care patients. 


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