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Background It was hypothesised that colorectal cancer (CRC) could be diagnosed in biopsies by measuring the combined expression of a small set of well known genes. Genes were chosen based on their role in either the breakdown of the extracellular matrix or with changes in cellular metabolism both of which are associated with CRC progression Findings Gene expression data derived from quantitative real-time PCR for the solute transporter carriers (SLCs) and the invasion-mediating matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) were examined using a Linear Descriminant Analysis (LDA). The combination of MMP-7 and SLC5A8 was found to be the most predictive of CRC. Conclusion A combinatorial analysis technique is an effective method for both furthering our understanding on the molecular basis of some aspects of CRC, as well as for leveraging well defined cancer-related gene sets to identify cancer. In this instance, the combination of MMP-7 and SLC5A8 were optimal for identifying CRC.