Washington: In a finding that could help physicians provide early and more specialized treatment for colon cancer, researchers led by an Indian-American at the University of Minnesota in the US have identified a molecule called microRNA that may cause colon polyps to turn cancerous.
"With the advanced screenings we now have available, why are so many people still being diagnosed with colon cancer? We really wanted to understand if there was a way to stop the disease before it starts, before benign polyps became cancerous tumors," said Subbaya Subramanian, assistant professor at the University of Minnesota' medical school.
By looking at microRNAs, Subramanian and his colleagues hoped to unlock the mystery behind the phenomenon.
The team found that miR-182 and miR-503 act together to transform a benign polyp into a cancerous tumour by holding down the cell's ability to create the tumour suppressing protein FBXW7.
When both the microRNAs (miR-182 and miR-503) were present at higher levels, the decreased rate of the patient's survival was clearly noticed.
"It suggests a biomarker for colon cancer patients, something ideally physicians can one day screen for as a diagnostic and prognostic tool," explained Subramanian.
The next step will be determining if drugs are able to target miR-182 and -503, as well was what miR-182 and -503 do after suppressing FBXW7, noted Subramanian.
The team now hopes to develop a test to be utilized in a clinical setting.
The findings were published in The Journal of Pathology.