A new study has discovered unique metastasis-specific microRNA signatures in primary colorectal cancers that could predict prognosis and distant metastasis, helping physicians suggest more effective therapies.
The study, led by Ajay Goel, PhD, director of the Center for Gastrointestinal Cancer Research and for Epigenetics & Cancer Prevention at Baylor Research Institute (Dallas, TX, USA), is from the second stage of a long-term colorectal cancer study, where the first stage developed a blood test (reported in 2013) for finding cancer-related microRNAs before a tumor develops in the colon. "Fifty percent of people in the US aren''t following recommended guidelines for colorectal cancer screening. The good news is this disease doesn''t happen overnight," said Dr. Goel. Colorectal cancer is the 2nd-leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide, with distant metastasis being the major cause of mortality and serious morbidity in cancer patients. Results from the new study would help determine which patients have a high risk of developing distant metastases, of which liver metastasis is the most common manifestation. Thus, oncologists could better predict which patients need more extensive treatment, helping to avoid over- and under-treatment.
"We''ve been doing this a long time," said Dr. Goel, "The fundamental basis is trying to understand who has a risk of developing colorectal cancer, and then understanding which patients have higher risks of their cancer spreading to lymph nodes and other distant organs."
The third phase of the long-term study is currently underway. The researchers will take the results from the blood test and metastasis-specific microRNA studies to develop markers for identifying different stages of colorectal cancer, as well as which drugs best treat those stages. If Dr. Goel and his team are successful in this, the results would help establish individualized treatment to enable treating the right type of cancer with the right type of drug.
The study was published January 30, 2015, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.