Quidel Aims for a Piece of the Colorectal Cancer Screening Market

12/22/08Follow @xconomy

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or proteins shed by tiny tumors into the bloodstream. Quidel (pronounced QWHY-dell) is instead marketing a more traditional “immunochemical” test that uses antibody-based dyes to detect blood in the stool, Radak says.

A recent study indicates that Quidel’s test catches 96 percent of colon cancers and accurately rules out cancer 82 percent of the time.

There are also convenience advantages for the Quidel technique, Radak says. The company’s method requires patients produce just one sample, he says, instead of the three required with the so-called guaiac test, the most commonly used test for blood in the stool. This means it should encourage patients to actually follow doctors’ orders and complete the test, which is a major challenge, Radak says.

Quidel’s test is also specifically spots human hemoglobin, a protein in blood, and won’t mistakenly give a positive reading by picking up trace amounts of animal blood. “If you go out to a nice steak house the night before the test,” then some of the cow’s blood could show up in the guaiac test and set off false positive alarms, Radak says. The advantages are compelling enough, that “we are looking to convert the entire market from guaiac to immunochemical,” Radak says.

The Quidel test costs about $10, so it will take a lot of sales volume for this to spur growth for a company that had $118 million in revenue last year. A lot will depend on whether the company can persuade physicians to get on board. Currently only about 2 to 3 percent of the 50 million fecal blood tests sold each year are of the immunochemical variety like Quidel’s, Radak says.

The company isn’t giving financial guidance on its expectations for the test, although it’s sharpening up its marketing message—focusing on the fact that patients only need to produce one stool sample. “Then they’re done,” Radak says. One and done—given people’s squeamishness about the whole idea of these tests it sounds like a reasonable pitch to me.

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