IU gastroenterologist testing flavorful shakes to make screening more pleasant

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Who could resist a diet ordered by a physician that includes vanilla or strawberry-banana shakes and lemon, white chocolate or coconut food bars? That’s the idea behind a new approach to bowel cleansing for colonoscopy being tested by an Indiana University gastroenterologist.

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in men and women, but a simple screening procedure can save lives, according to Douglas K. Rex, M.D., Distinguished Professor, Chancellor’s Professor and professor of medicine at IU School of Medicine and a member of the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center.

Colorectal cancer screenings are credited with saving thousands of lives each year, yet the statistics for people after the age of 50 years who do not get screened remains high, according to the National Cancer Institute. Screening rates have increased in the United States, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says only 65.7 percent of adults were current with colorectal cancer screening in 2014, while 7 percent had been screened but were not up-to-date, and 27.3 percent had never been screened.

“By improving the taste of the preparations, we hope people would be willing to have the initial colorectal cancer screening and repeat tests as necessary,” Dr. Rex said.

Dr. Rex said the shakes and food bars were tested in a phase II trial with positive results.

“Patients who have had previous bowel preparations had a strong preference for the new shakes and food bars,” he said. “Compared to the standard preparations used for cleansing the bowel, the shakes and food bars were just as successful and they taste better.”

The day before the colonoscopy, the new regimen begins at lunchtime with a food bar, followed with a second bar at 3 p.m. and a third food bar at 8 p.m. Shakes are consumed at 6 p.m. and the following morning a few hours before the screening test. Patients also consume an electrolyte containing drink, similar to a sport drink, three times the day before.

Plans are underway for a phase III study to be performed at multiple U.S. sites.

If all goes as expected, the shakes and food bars will soon make preparation for a colonoscopy more palatable.