A simple blood test that looks for a combination of specific RNA snippets may become a novel way to screen for early-onset colorectal cancer, suggests a new study published in Gastroenterology.
Researchers identified four microRNAs that together comprise a signature biomarker that can be used to detect and diagnose the presence of colorectal cancer from a liquid biopsy in a younger population.
MicroRNAs, or miRNAs, are small RNA molecules that do not encode proteins but are used instead to regulate gene expression. The study authors developed and validated a panel that detects four miRNAs occurring at higher levels in plasma samples from patients with early-onset colorectal cancer, with high sensitivity and specificity.
“Colon cancer is not going to kill somebody overnight, so this should be used as a precursor to colonoscopy. As long as that test is negative, you can postpone a colonoscopy,” said Dr. Goel.
Andrew T. Chan, MD, MPH, who was not involved in the research, said in an interview that the findings are exciting.