New genetic biomarker for colon cancer may lead to development of personalized treatment

Researchers at Baylor Scott & White Research Institute identified a new genetic biomarker for colon cancer that may lead to development of more targeted treatment of the disease. The study, which appeared in a recent issue of Clinical Cancer Research, was the first to demonstrate the role of a novel class of RNA, circular RNA ciRS-7, in colon cancer.

Circular RNAs, a recently discovered type of non-coding RNA, are gene regulators emerging as a key player in the development of cancer in several studies. For this study, researchers evaluated the expression levels of ciRS-7 in patients with colon cancer and healthy subjects to explore its clinical significance in the disease.

Findings showed an increased presence of ciRS-7 in colon cancer patient tissues. High levels of ciRS-7 promoted rapid cancer cell growth and appeared to be a predictor for poor survival in patients with colon cancer.

The results suggest ciRS-7 may one day help predict patient prognosis and guide treatment decisions for colon cancer, the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the U.S.

"This study is important for the way we treat colon cancer, because ciRS-7 controls the expression of many genes," said Ajay Goel, Ph.D., director of gastrointestinal research and translational genomics and oncology at Baylor Scott & White Research Institute and co-author of the study. "Since cancer therapies aimed at targeting a single gene have not been very effective, targeting a circular RNA such as ciRS-7 might be a more promising and attractive option as it regulates the expression of several cancer causing genes. Identifying key treatment targets helps with the development of very specific, personalized anti-cancer interventions that may save more lives in the future."

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