A novel blood test developed at the Baylor Research Institute has the ability to detect microRNA (miRNA) that is associated with the development of colonic polyps. This miRNA-21 is a transcriptional factor that controls mRNA transcription for a particular protein associated with cancer. This blood test is able to accurately identify up to 92 percent of patients with colorectal cancer. Moreover, it can detect up to 82 percent of patients with advanced colonic polyps. Advanced colonic polyp stage presents the greatest risk for developing into colorectal cancer several years later in life. The results of this test are available in the June issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
This miRNA-21 biomarker of early and advanced colonic polyp formation allows for a powerful screening method and best approach to overall survival of these patients, according to Ajay Goel, PhD, director of Epigenetics and Cancer Prevention at Baylor Research Institute. According to Michael Ramsay, MD, President of Baylor Research Institute, “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.”
This discovery has led to an editorial in the Journal by Heinz-Josef Lenz, MD (associate director for clinical research) at the University of Southern California’s Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. According to Dr. Lenz, “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.”
Though this novel blood test for colonic polyp development requires further testing, research in the past ten years has brought to light that miRNAs are important factors in regulating a wide range of cellular processes by modulating gene expression after the fact. This suggests numerous applications for therapies for a number of diseases including colorectal cancer.
For further insight into colonic polyp development, please watch the video below from MD Anderson Cancer Center:
Baylor Research Institute promotes and supports research that connects the laboratory workbench with the patients bedside. They focus on basic research, clinical trials, healthcare effectiveness and quality-of-care research. Currently, they have more then 800 active research projects with some 250 investigators. Their projects range from human immunology and orphan metabolic diseases to diabetes and cardiovascular disease to mention a few.