Baylor Research Institute's Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Lab has developed a new blood test that has shown potential in finding cancer-related microRNA in the blood before a tumor develops in the colon.
The test results, published in the latest issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, are exciting and promising because this simple blood-based test examines the levels of a single microRNA - a small RNA molecule that can be readily identified in a wide variety of bodily fluids, including blood. In this seminal study the investigators studied several hundred patients with colorectal polyps and cancers and reported that measuring levels of miR-21 in the blood can accurately identify up to 92 percent of patients with colorectal cancer. Even more importantly, not only is this test good for non-invasively identifying patients who already have colorectal cancer, but it can accurately identify up to 82 percent of patients with advanced colonic polyps, which present the highest risk for developing into colorectal cancers several years later in life.
"The development of this biomarker is highly encouraging because high mortality rates associated with colorectal cancer is a consequence of late detection of this disease, underscoring the need for improved early detection, prevention, risk assessment and intervention," said Ajay Goel, PhD, director of Epigenetics and Cancer Prevention at Baylor Research Institute. Early detection of advanced colorectal polyps and cancers is considered the most relevant target for screening strategies and the best approach to improving survival of these patients. "This blood-based test could be transformative in how we screen patients for colorectal cancer; it would save lives and could result in major savings of health care dollars," said Michael Ramsay, MD, president of Baylor Research Institute.
While more testing needs to be done, the findings were enough to warrant an editorial in the highly regarded Journal by Heinz-Josef Lenz, MD, associate director for clinical research at the University of Southern California's Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. "MiR-21 may not be just another brick in the wall but rather may be the keystone leading to a molecularly justified, miRNA-based biomarker era in colorectal cancer," Dr. Lenz said in the Journal.
About Baylor Research Institute
Baylor Research Institute (baylorhealth.edu/Research) is the research component of the Baylor Health Care System (baylorhealth.com). Established in 1984, Baylor Research Institute promotes and supports research to bring innovative treatments from the laboratory workbench to the patient bedside. Baylor Research Institute focuses on basic science, clinical trials, healthcare effectiveness and quality-of-care research. Today, Baylor Research Institute is conducting more than 800 active research protocols with 250 research investigators, spanning more than 20 medical specialties, and has research and development projects in areas ranging from human immunology and orphan metabolic diseases to diabetes, cardio-vascular disease and many other unmet medical needs.