Washington: Scientists, including an Indian-origin researcher, have developed a new blood test that can detect cancer-related microRNA in the blood even before a tumour develops in the colon.
The test developed in the Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Lab at Baylor Research Institute in US 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 the 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 per cent of patients with colorectal cancer.
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 per cent 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 lead author Ajay Goel, 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, president of Baylor Research Institute.
The research was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.