In a new study, published in the journal Gut, researchers at Baylor Research Institute reported to have identified a new small RNA molecule that promotes certain colorectal cancers’ aggressiveness, leading to invasion and colonization of healthy tissue and treatment resistance. The study is entitled “Clinical significance of SNORA42 as an oncogene and a prognostic biomarker in colorectal cancer“.
The molecule – SNORA42 – expression was found upregulated in colorectal cancer cells when compared to healthy cells, and to be associated with cancer progression. The team of scientists discovered that blocking SNORA42 expression halted cancer cells’ ability to divide uncontrollably and form tumors, thereby preventing later tumors’ invasion of normal tissue and resistance to cell death.
These findings suggest that SNORA42 is the first small RNA molecule of its kind identified as a potential biomarker for colorectal cancer, and high expression levels of SNORA42 detected in patients’ tissues may indicate patients with more aggressive tumors. This will allow clinicians to direct more appropriated therapies for these types of colorectal cancers, as Ajay Goel, PhD, director of the Center for Gastrointestinal Cancer Research and for Epigenetics and Cancer Prevention at Baylor Research Institute and study lead author, noted in a news release. Said Dr. Goel, “We need predictive biomarkers that can identify patients who are at high risk for developing tumor recurrence, especially in those with stage 2 colorectal cancer.”
Stage 2 colorectal cancer is defined by cancer growth, but not enough to have spread to lymph nodes and distant locations within the body. Clinicians need to decide how to proceed treatments in Stage 2 patients, either choosing to submit patients to surgery alone or combining surgery with post-operative chemotherapy.
“The majority of patients with stage 2 colorectal cancer will be cured with surgery alone, but some will relapse and eventually die. Molecular biomarkers, such as SNORA42, could help determine which patients might have a better prognosis with more aggressive treatment. They also provide us with targets for the development of very specific, personalized anti-cancer interventions,” commented Dr. Goel.
SNORA42 is the first small nucleolar RNA (SNORA), a subset of a larger class of small RNAs called microRNAs, identified as a biomarker for colorectal cancer, Baylor reports. SNORAs have particular characteristics, being less vulnerable to biodegradation when compared to other microRNAs and exhibiting better strength and stability, opening the likelihood of further studies and eventual design of noninvasive tests, such as blood or stool tests, for SNORA detection.