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New Blood Test May Detect Colon Cancer Before It Develops

Test finds cancer-related microRNA (June 18)

A new blood test developed at Baylor Research Institute has shown promising results for finding cancer-related microRNA in the blood before a tumor develops in the colon.

The test results, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, appear promising because the simple blood-based test examines the levels of a single microRNA — a small RNA molecule — that can be readily identified in a variety of bodily fluids, including blood.

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% of patients with colorectal cancer. In addition, the test identifies up to 82% of patients with advanced colonic polyps, which present the highest risk for developing into colorectal cancers several years later in life.

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.

Michael Ramsay, MD, president of Baylor Research Institute, said: “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.”

In an accompanying editorial, Heinz-Josef Lenz, MD, associate director for clinical research at the University of Southern California’s Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, remarked that “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.”

Source: Baylor; June 18, 2013.

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